Bayard Rustin was born on March 17, 1912 in West Chester, Pennsylvania to Florence Rustin and Archie Hopkins. Bayard was raised by his mother’s parents Julia & Janifer Rustin. His grandmother Julia was a member of the NAACP, Rustin grew up seeing the widely recognized people who were leaders in the NAACP in his home. This is what spark is interesting in racial discrimination.
In September of 1932, Rustin enter a historically black college named Wilberforce University. There he was active in various campus organizations but was expelled 4 years later for organizing a strike.
Shorty after moving to Harlem in 1937, he was involved in the Scottsboro Boys case. Where 9 young black men in Alabama were accused of raping 2 white women on a train in 1931.
In 1947, Bayard and George Houser organized the Journey of Reconciliation. It was the first of the more commonly known “Freedom Rides”. The were fighting again the Supreme Court ruling Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia that banned racial discrimination in interstate travels. Rustin was jailed for 22 day for violating the states Jim Crow laws.
In 1956 Rustin went to aid Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he started the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He wanted to show Dr. King the tactics he learned while training on nonviolent resistance in India.
Dr. King and Rustin organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Rustin’s time was cut short when he resigned after members had learned about his sexual orientation by a fellow member of SCLC. He found himself being shunned by Civil Rights leaders.
Rustin later on went on to fight for gay rights. In the 1980s he became a public advocate for gay and lesbian rights. In 1986, he cane a speech on behalf of the New York State’s Gay Rights Bill, he speech named “The New Ni**gers Are Gay”.
In the new times where getting married for LGBT community is acceptable, back then Bayard has to find a creative way to make their union legal. He adopted his then partner Walter Naegle.
Bayard Rustin died on August 24, 1987 due to a perforated appendix.
He will be remembered for his silent contributions to the Civil Rights movement. His fight for equality for black people and those in the LGBT community.
Here is a clip of him debating Malcolm X.