Black History Month-Bayard Rustin

In observance of Black History Month, Family Equality Council will be remembering and highlighting people, events and issues that have shaped the lives of many of today’s LGBTQ families.

Bayard Rustin (3/17/1912-8/24/1987)—Activist and civil rights leader. Rustin is best known for his work alongside Martin Luther King Jr., especially his pivotal role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. Growing up in a household frequented by NAACP leaders, Rustin began protesting Jim Crow laws from a young age. A Quaker and a pacifist, Rustin was arrested and imprisoned as a conscientious objector during World War II. During his two years in prison, he organized inmate protests against segregated dining halls. Rustin went on to organize the first Freedom Ride, in 1947, then traveled to India to learn nonviolent resistance techniques from the Ghandian movement. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rustin began advising Martin Luther King Jr. on nonviolence. Rustin spent many years out of the spotlight, sometimes attacked, threatened, and ostracized, due largely to his being openly gay. He served as the chairman of the Socialist Party, SDUSA, during the ’70s and worked on economic and labor issues as well as gay rights in his later years. His life is featured in the 2003 documentary Brother Outsider.

“When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.”