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The William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center — a location that has historically supported inclusive climates and hosted intercultural engagement activities — celebrated their 50th Anniversary on Feb. 10. 

The Multicultural Center was previously known as Trotter House in 1971, when it was first founded as a space to help Black students who faced obstacles in their education. At its founding, Trotter House was housed on the corner of South University Avenue and East University Avenue.

LSA senior Solomon Lucy, the research and education chair for the Black Student Union (BSU), said the creation of the Trotter House was the outcome of the first Black Action Movement (BAM I). The space was created in response to Black students feeling like their voices weren’t heard on campus, Lucy said. 

“Trotter was composed of Black students, Black faculty, allies and people who are interested in coming together and fighting for a better experience for Black students,” Lucy said. “They had many demands, and one of the demands was that they build some kind of area where Black students can congregate … That formed the Black House, which turned into Trotter House, which is now the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center.”

Previously, the Trotter House offered workshops for art students led by African American students, sociology and psychology classes, orientation meetings and other interactive events. Six months after Trotter House opened, it was damaged in a fire. The Trotter Multicultural Center was then built in its place in 1972. 

In 2019, Trotter House was relocated to a new location on South State Street, where it is now referred to as the Trotter Multicultural Center. The new Trotter Center’s opening — at a location more accessible to community members on Central Campus — was a result of decades of petitioning from student activist groups, particularly the Black Student Union. Today, the Center is available for all U-M students, faculty and staff to conduct meetings and events. 

Lucy said he enjoys how the Multicultural Center is more centralized on campus because it used to be on Washtenaw Avenue, a roughly 15-minute walk from Central Campus. 

“It’s much easier for students, especially underclassmen, to come in and try to use the space because they pass it every day,” Lucy said. “It has become more accessible for students, and it’s kind of like a house with a kitchen, study area and place for meditation.”

Trotter associate director Kellyn Mackerl-Cooper said the Center would release details regarding the 50th anniversary and its new social media campaign prior to the anniversary date. These details would share important information about the Center and its relevance during Black History Month.

“The Trotter Multicultural Center is presenting a social media campaign in honor of Black History Month about our center’s namesake, William Monroe Trotter,” Mackerl-Cooper said. “Notably, this is the only building on campus that is named after a Black man. We encourage you to get more familiar with the activist’s remarkable life.”

After completing his degree at Harvard University, William Monroe Trotter dedicated his life to advocating for higher education and voting rights for Black people. He also fought against segregation for greater emancipation for Black Americans in the 19th century. Trotter was inspired to join the fight for racial justice after being denied many jobs in the real estate market due to racial prejudice. Trotter joined many racial protest groups in Boston and publicly spoke condemning segregation. 

The social media campaign can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and features historical facts about Trotter’s life while highlighting his work to improve the lives of Black Americans. According to Mackerl-Cooper, the Center continues his tradition of political consciousness and the imperatives of social justice. The center put together an interactive timeline of his biography to help the community understand his impact.

LSA senior Isis Rodriguez, a Trotter student staff member, said the Multicultural Center is a very meaningful place to her as a person of color at a predominantly white institution (PWI). Rodriguez said she is the longest employed staff member and was a part of the first group of students to work at the Center in August 2019. 

“It’s a very comforting and inclusive space, and it has become like my second home,” Rodriguez said. “My favorite event is the student weekly events. BSU and La Casa have their weekly mass meetings here, and I enjoy the sense of community that those nights bring out … For people of color, don’t be afraid to just walk through those doors and explore the building and learn about the building, because there is an amazing history behind it.”

In collaboration with the MLK Symposium, the Trotter Center is also featuring an online exhibit called the “History of the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center At The University of Michigan.” This exhibit was curated by U-M librarians Charles Ransom and Edras Rodriguez-Torres and is available for anyone to access.

Nathan Hanke, Trotter Intercultural Learning and Innovation Lead, attributed the inspiration of their 50th Anniversary mark to U-M alum Elizabeth Youngblood, who created the original “Trotter House” logo to symbolize the intermingling of Black people and the cooperation and sharing of ideas.

“The 50th Anniversary mark features the number 50 in two colors, providing a background to bring the original logo into focus,” Hanke said. “All of the elements tightly overlap to signify for the U-M community that a future without a past is no present.”

Daily Staff Reporter Sejal Patil can be reached at