Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin (/ˈb.ərd/; March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987) was an African American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights.

Bayard Rustin
Rustin at a news briefing on the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on August 27, 1963
Born(1912-03-17)March 17, 1912
DiedAugust 24, 1987(1987-08-24) (aged 75)
EducationWilberforce University
Cheyney University
City College of New York
OrganizationFellowship of Reconciliation
Congress of Racial Equality
War Resisters League
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
Social Democrats, USA (National Chairman)
A. Philip Randolph Institute (President)
Committee on the Present Danger
MovementCivil Rights Movement, Peace Movement, Socialism, Gay Rights Movement, Neoconservatism
Partner(s)Davis Platt
Walter Naegle (1977–1987; Rustin's death)
AwardsPresidential Medal of Freedom

Rustin worked with A. Philip Randolph on the March on Washington Movement, in 1941, to press for an end to racial discrimination in employment. Rustin later organized Freedom Rides, and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership and teaching King about nonviolence; he later served as an organizer for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.[1] Rustin worked alongside Ella Baker, a co-director of the Crusade for Citizenship, in 1954; and before the Montgomery bus boycott, he helped organize a group, called "In Friendship," amongst Baker, George Lawrence, Stanley Levison of the American Jewish Congress, and some other labor leaders. "In Friendship" provided material and legal assistance to those being evicted from their tenant farms and households in Clarendon County, Yazoo, and other places.[2] Rustin became the head of the AFL–CIO's A. Philip Randolph Institute, which promoted the integration of formerly all-white unions, and promoted the unionization of African Americans. During the 1970s and 1980s, Rustin served on many humanitarian missions, such as aiding refugees from Communist Vietnam and Cambodia. At the time of his death in 1987, he was on a humanitarian mission in Haiti.

Rustin was a gay man and, due to criticism over his sexuality, he usually acted as an influential adviser behind the scenes to civil-rights leaders. In the 1980s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay causes, speaking at events as an activist and supporter of human rights.[3]

Later in life, while still devoted to securing workers' rights, Rustin joined other union leaders in aligning with ideological neoconservatism,[4][5] and (after his death) President Ronald Reagan praised him.[6] On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[7]


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