If you’ve never heard of Bayard Rustin you are not alone. But you should know him. Bayard Rustin is perhaps the most significant organizer for social justice and civil rights in American history. He was the man behind Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, teaching King everything he knew about non-violent resistance, civil disobedience, and organizing a movement. Certainly The Movement would not have succeeded like it did without MLK’s brilliance, but King would be no more than a prophetic preacher if Bayard Rustin hadn’t introduced him to the ideas of Gandhi and given King the strategy to change the world through peace.
So if Bayard Rustin is so important, why has history forgotten him? Why isn’t he celebrated? Why was he hidden by The Movement itself?
Bayrad Rustin was gay.
When those opposed to The Movement learned of Bayard Rustin’s sexuality, they sought to use it
against the entire fight for civil rights– even from the floor of congress. As result, Bayard Rustin worked from the background, hidden from public eye and left out of the history books.There is no justifying the horrible injustice that has been done to Bayard Rustin. However, we can’t change what our heroes of the Civil Rights Era choice to do to protect a vulnerable movement. What we can do is reclaim his name, sacrifice, hard work, and character today.
That is why today, I am introducing a petition to President Barack Obama to award Bayard Rustin posthumously with The Presidential Medal of Freedom. We need 100,000 signatures by February 17th, 2013. Together we can help honor a man who gave his entire for the Civil Rights Movement. He deserves to at least stand behind, if not next to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Click the picture below to sign the petition and share this with your friends. Below is a video and other links to more information about Bayard Rustin’s life of service.
- Brother Outsider, a documentary about Bayard Rustin’s life (airs on PBS 2/3/13, at 8 pm EST)
- A pamphlet written by Bayard Rustin giving final marching order for The March on Washington
- Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D’Emilio