Remembering Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin — the trailblazing civil rights activist and the organizer of the famous March on Washington in 1963 — was black, gay, a pacifist, and a radical. Controversy surrounded him all his life. But this year — the 100th anniversary of his birth and 25 years after his death — his name is back in the news. Some of this new visibility is due to the fact that a number of civil rights and gay rights groups are honoring Rustin with conferences, museum exhibits and other events. And part of it is due to the fact that in the wake of President Barack Obama’s support for same-sex marriage, the issue of homosexuality within the black community — including the civil rights movement and the black church — is triggering controversy. As I discuss in my article in the June issue of Commonweal (a version of which also appeared in Huffington Post), as a human rights pioneer Rustin may finally be getting the recognition he deserves, but some opponents of gay rights within the black community are also taking his name in vain. My article discusses Rustin’s life and legacy.


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