The Legacy of Bayard Rustin: Civil Rights Leader and Queer Activist

By Sarah Prager


On the third Monday of each January, Americans remember a leader at the forefront of the U.S. civil rights movement, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This one man is often lifted up as the leader instead of one of many (in part because of this national holiday first observed in 1986), but of course many organizers made the movement possible. One leader who could have been out front like Dr. King一but was instead his right-hand man because of his sexual identity一was Bayard Rustin. 


Rustin (1912-1987) was in fact one of the people who helped to educate Dr. King on nonviolence and convince him to use it and stick with it as a principal strategy. Rustin studied Gandhian nonviolence in India in 1948, a practice he used a year earlier when he was arrested for being one of the protesters integrating interstate bus travel eight years before Rosa Parks’s arrest and 14 years before the famed Freedom Rides that used the protests he was part of as a model. ...

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