Black History Month: Giving Bayard Rustin His Due

Bayard Rustin 3His influences were W.E.B. DuBois and Mahatma Gandhi. An intellectual, a Quaker, and a visionary, Bayard Rustin was the force behind the introduction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s non-violent tactics. Rustin went on to become Deputy Director and Chief Organizer of the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

If you didn’t know that, or if you’ve never heard of him, it’s probably because homophobia within society at large and within the African-American Civil Rights Movement, a well-kept secret, relegated Rustin to the back of the bus, so to speak, to the background of the Civil Rights Movement. For example, in 1956, Rustin was hidden in the trunk of a car and covertly ushered out of Montgomery during the Montgomery Bus Boycott because the movement feared that an openly-gay man as an advisor would discredit the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King and the other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Three years earlier, he had been arrested for a homosexual act. Rustin’s sexuality, or at least his public criminal charge, was criticized by some fellow pacifists and civil-rights leaders; worse yet, he was attacked as a “pervert” or “immoral influence” by political opponents, black and white alike, from segregationists to Black power militants from the 1950s through the 1970s. As an openly-gay man, he became one of the Continue reading