1912 March 17

Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights Activist, is Born


Bayard Rustin was an African-American civil rights activist who is most famous as the key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington (August 28, 1963). He had been an aide to A. Philip Randolph for his planned 1941 March on Washington, which was cancelled when President Franklin Roosevelt agreed to create a Fair Employment Practices Committee. Rustin participated in the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation that began on April 9, 1947, which was a predecessor to the more famous Freedom Ride that began on May 4, 1961.

Rustin was also gay, and an arrest in Los Angeles dogged his public career. In a time of pervasive homophobia, he was not public about his sexual orientation and did not campaign for gay rights. He died in August 1987 at age 75.

In 2013 President Barack Obama awarded posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bayard Rustin.

See a segment from the feature-length biopic, Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (2003): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFJDlzm5zDM

Read: John D’Emilio, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin (2003)

Learn more: Daniel Levine, Bayard Rustin and the Civil Rights Movement (2000)

Learn about Rustin’s role in the 1963 March on Washington: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1iOjvQVOBk

Learn more about African American history: Henry Louis Gates, Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (2011)

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