Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Bayard Rustin was a civil rights activist most notable for being the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The March was one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States. The estimate count of participants at the March varied from 200,000 to 300,000.

However Rustin's civil activism did not start with the March on Washington. From the 1940s until his death in 1987, Rustin played an instrumental role in several civil rights movements. 

Rustin is affectionately referred to as "an uncle of CORE," due to his assistance in formation of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He also organized the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947 which was the first of the Freedom Rides to test the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States that banned racial discrimination in interstate travel. He also worked as a human rights and election monitor for Freedom House.

Rustin is said to have persuaded Dr. Martin Luther King (you don't know no Dr. Martha-the-Luther-da-Kang...sorry couldn't resist!) and other boycott leaders to adopt complete nonviolence --teaching them Gandhian nonviolent direct protest.

Rustin later advised King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) during the organizing of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Although Dr. King supported Rustin, U.S. Representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., who was a member of the SCLC's board and NAACP chairman Roy Wilkins did not want Rustin to receive any public credit for his role in planning the march because Rustin was openly

gay and had previously been convicted in Pasadena, California for “homosexual activity.”

However in September 6, 1963, Rustin and A. Phillip Randolph appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine as "the leaders" of the March.

In 1986, Rustin testified on behalf of New York State's Gay Rights Bill. In his speech he proclaimed that "The New Niggers Are Gays."
Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in every segment of society and there are laws that help to protect them from racial discrimination. The new "niggers" are gays. . . . It is in this sense that gay people are the new barometer for social change. . . . The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable group in mind: gay people.
In 2008, MTV’s LOGO network premiered a documentary about Rustin called “Brother Outsider.” The documentary continues to be broadcast regularly as part of LOGO’s “Real Momentum” series. Check out the trailer below!

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