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

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In the Spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. — 2013

from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, August 8, 1963

from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, August 8, 1963 (AFP/Getty Image)

“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” — from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Stockholm (1964)

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” — from a 1956 sermon

“We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. … And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. It is a good instinct if you don’t distort it and pervert it. Don’t give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity.” — from “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (February 4, 1968) Continue reading