Adopting the peaceful protest philosophy of Gandhi, Bayard Rustin organized one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States: the 1963 March on Washington. He was persecuted as an openly gay man--and hence is less well known than his mentee, Martin Luther King, Jr., but he was an important strategist behind the scenes. He was a lifelong activist advancing civil rights and gay rights and was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2013.

Bayard Rustin

by Jasmine from Chapel Hill

"We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers." - Bayard Rustin
Picture of Bayard Rustin  ( (Leffler, Warren K))
PHOTO: Warren K. Leffler, pcropped by Beyond My Ken
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of Bayard Rustin's greatest accomplishments was organizing the 1963 March on Washington. This famous event led to the Civil Rights Act being passed 10 months later.

Rustin was born in West Chester, PA, where he would spend a good amount of his life. Bayard Rustin loved the idea of complete peace because his guardian as a child was a Quaker. Rustin was also very kind and very intelligent. During his school years, Bayard Rustin was known for his intelligence, his wonderful ability to read poetry, and his astonishing abilities as a tenor in the school choir. Due to his intelligence, he went to two colleges after graduating from high school. During college, he joined several groups that focused on civil rights. These groups would lead him to his long-term mentorships. Rustin was also part of a communist group during his college years, which would later prove to be another problem on top of his sexuality and race.

Bayard Rustin achieved legal equality for blacks and desegregated the US military. It was in his home town that he was arrested for refusing to sit in the segregated balcony in a movie theater. Without Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King Jr. would not be known for his accomplishments. Rustin mentored King before his career had really begun. If the Civil Rights Act hadn't been passed, many places would still be segregated, which would be extremely unfortunate for those who are black. Bayard Rustin represented a need for change in society during the time period in which he lived. He believed in "world peace." Bayard Rustin never really gave up on what he was trying to accomplish despite the many obstacles he faced. During the last few years of his life, Rustin made speeches about gay rights due to the shifted focus on this movement. Bayard Rustin is a very inspiring individual because he faced so many troubles on his journey to accomplish equality. Rustin was selfless in his methods of helping the civil rights movement. He realized that due to his background, he couldn't be at the front of the nation-wide movement.

Watch Brother Outsider, a documentary on Bayard Rustin


Page created on 10/28/2013 12:40:33 PM

Last edited 12/31/2020 7:15:30 PM

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Related Links

Who Designed the March on Washington? by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. | Originally posted on The Root - "If you teach your children one new name from the heroes of black history, please let it be Bayard Rustin."
BROTHER OUTSIDER: THE LIFE OF BAYARD RUSTIN - Documentary on Bayard Rustin. Official selection of the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.
Brother Outsider/ PBS - Film about the man who "formulated many of the strategies that propelled the American civil rights movement" while embracing the nonviolence of Gandhi.