Reappraising Bayard Rustin

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Bayard Rustin (left) and Cleveland Robinson discuss the March on Washington on 7 August 1963 | Wikipedia | 14035

Lydia Smith in the International Business Times notes that:

One of the most significant figures of the American civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin, born 1912, was the key strategist behind the 1963 March on Washington and taught Martin Luther King Jr the philosophy of pacifism. Historian John D’Emilio wrote in his book Lost Prophet: The Life And Times Of Bayard Rustin: “He did not die under tragic circumstances, as did Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, two more renowned African Americans who we do remember. Rustin was dismissed during his lifetime as a Communist, a draft dodger, or a sexual pervert. None are characteristics designed to win a revered place in our nation’s history.”

Rustin was a key player in the civil rights movement and was behind all King’s campaigns. He was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, before moving to Harlem and joining the Young Communist League in 1936. An accomplished tenor vocalist, he performed in the renowned Bohemian capital Greenwich Village. Rustin’s career ranged from organising the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947 and 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 to advocating the Free India movement.

Mr Rustin died in Manhattan in 1987 of a perforated appendix and was survived by his partner of ten years, Walter Naegle. He was given official recognition last year when US President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


SP

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