DAILY DOSE OF HISTORY: Bayard Rustin – Activist

West Chester

Bayard Rustin was born on March 17, 1912, in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Prior to his adolescence, Rustin was led to believe that his grandparents, Julia and Janifer Rustin, were his biological parents and that he had an older sister. In fact, Julia and Janifer were his grandmother and grandfather; his “older sister” was, in fact, his mother.

Education

Rustin attended two historically Black colleges, Wilberforce University in Ohio and Cheyney State Teachers College in Pennsylvania; the latter evolved into the Cheney University of Pennsylvania. He attended the City College of New York in 1937 and became involved with the Young Communist League for a short stint. He soon became disillusioned by the group and quickly resigned.

Activism

Rustin pulled from various political beliefs in order to create his personal philosophy: pacifism from the Quaker religion, non-violent resistance from Mahatma Gandhi, and socialism from A. Philip Randolph. Eventually, Rustin was able to work alongside Randolph, fighting against racial discrimination in the military during WWII. Baynard Rustin, Civil Rights Leader, Black History, Black History 365, DDH: Daily Dose of History Rustin then worked with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, one of many pacifist groups that he became involved with. He served two years in prison for refusing to register for the draft. And when he protested against segregation in the public transit system in 1947, he was arrested again. He was then sentenced to work on a chain gang for several weeks.

Organizer

In the early 1950s, Rustin was jailed for 60 days for engaging in homosexual activities. Despite his third jail stint, he lived openly as a homosexual man. He then became an expert in organizing human rights protests. In 1958, he organized the march in Aldermaston, England, resulting in 10,000 protestors demonstrating against nuclear weapons.

March on Washington

Rustin began working with Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1955, teaching him Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence. He advised MLK on how to best implement civil disobedience into his protesting. He assisted MLK in organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in 1956 and he helped organize the 1963 March on Washington.

Later Career

By 1965, Rustin had assisted Randolph by co-founding the A. Philip Randolph Institute. He then continued to work as a highly-sought-after public speaker within the civil rights and peace movement. Rustin later published ‘Down the Line’ (1971) and ‘Strategies for Freedom’ (1976), collections of writings about the civil rights movement.

Legacy

Rustin continued to advocate for economic equality, often speaking out against the financial disparities between the Black and White communities. He also advocated for social rights pertaining to the gay and lesbian community. Bayard Rustin died of a ruptured appendix on August 24, 1987, in New York City. He was 75 years old. Baynard Rustin, Civil Rights Leader, Black History, Black History 365, DDH: Daily Dose of History  
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer or We Buy Black. Thank you.**
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