Bayard Rustin: pioneer of civil rights


Bayard Rustin fought two historic battles: the civil rights of black Americans and the gay liberation movement. Rustin worked to end racial segregation using pacifist agitation and was the chief architect of the 1963 March on Washington. He has led nonviolent protests against restaurants, cinemas, barber shops, amusement parks and more. In 1953 he was arrested in California for having sex with another man. For this, he was sentenced to 50 days in prison and had to register as a sex offender. He was posthumously pardoned for his conviction in 2020, 33 years after his death. In the mid-1950s, Rustin became a close advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., and he was the main organizer of the King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Bayard has stayed out of the public spotlight fearing that his sexuality could be used to attack King. Although he is behind the scenes, he has been extremely influential in the civil rights movement. One of his greatest accomplishments was the March on Washington, where a quarter of a million people gathered in Washington to support ongoing civil rights legislation. This is where King made history with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1964, Rustin ordered a boycott of New York public schools to protest racial discrimination in schools. He was then president of a civil rights organization in New York from 1966 to 1979. Soon after, he became involved in the gay rights movement. In 2013, President Obama posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Bayard Rustin fought two historic battles: the civil rights of black Americans and the gay liberation movement.

Rustin worked to end racial segregation using pacifist agitation and was the chief architect of the 1963 March on Washington. He has led nonviolent protests against restaurants, cinemas, hair salons, amusement parks and more.

In 1953, he was arrested in California for having sex with another man. For this he was sentenced to 50 days in prison and had to register as a sex offender. He was posthumously pardoned for his conviction in 2020, 33 years after his death.

In the mid-1950s, Rustin became a close advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., and he was the primary organizer of the King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Bayard stayed away from the public, fearing that his sexuality would be used to attack King. Although he is behind the scenes, he has been extremely influential in the civil rights movement.

One of his greatest accomplishments was the March on Washington, where a quarter of a million people gathered in Washington to support ongoing civil rights legislation. This is where King made history with his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

In 1964, Rustin led a student boycott of New York City public schools to protest racial discrimination in schools. He was then president of a civil rights organization in New York from 1966 to 1979.

Soon after, he became involved in the gay rights movement.

In 2013, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.


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