Who is Bayard Rustin?

Bayard Rustin was born on March 17, 1912, to Florence Rustin, one of eight children of Julia and Janifer Rustin of West Chester Pennsylvania. In 1937 he moved to New York City and enrolled in the City college of New York, although he never received a degree. It was at this time that Rustin began to organize for the Young Communist League of City College. The communists' progressive stance on the issue of racial injustice appealed to him, although he began to be disillusioned with them after the Communist Party's abrupt about-face on the issue of segregation in the American military in the wake of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. In 1953, Rustin was arrested for public indecency in Pasadena, California while lecturing under the auspices of the American Association of University Women. It was the first time that Rustin's homosexuality had come into public attention, and at that time homosexual behavior in all states was a criminal offense. Although the gay rights movement in the United States was still many years in the future, Rustin's conviction and his relatively open attitude about his homosexuality set the stage for him to become an elder gay icon in the decades to come. Although faced with vicious racism from some of the prison guards and white prisoners, Rustin faced frequent cruelty with courage and nonviolent resistance. Bayard Rustin was an indispensable unsung force behind the movement towards equality for America's black citizens, and more largely for the rights of humans around the globe.

Courtesy of: Suite101

Back to top of page.