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Black Activists - Bayard Rustin

Updated on February 26, 2012

Bayard Rustin was born March 17, 1912 in West Chester, Pennsylvania and died August 24, 1987 in Manhattan, New York. Bayard Rustin was raised with NAACP leaders as his influences. Rustin was best known as an activist. Rustin worked to develop the Freedom Rides and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Rustin worked with several civil rights organizations throughout his career. Rustin practiced and believed in non-violence having learned from working with the Gandhi Movement inIndia. Rustin also fought for gay rights and was a gay man himself. Rustin received a great deal of criticism regarding his sexuality and fought so that others did not have to have to deal with the same negative experiences.

Early Years

Bayard Rustin was raised by his maternal grandparents who were also members of the NAACP. Rustin was very away of the struggle for civil rights at an early age. Because of his grandparents Rustin had several NAACP leaders as his influences and so at a very young age Rustin was helping to fight against Jim Crow laws. Rustin was also an accomplished vocalist that earned him music scholarships to various schools and he also performed regularly with a band at local venues. Rustin’s talent helped to put him in certain social circles which would later help him in the civil rights movement.


Bayard Rustin was an activist in every sense of the word. Rustin helped those who were underrepresented throughout his career as an activist. Rustin not only helped African Americans but also helped Japanese Americans who were in internment camps as well as gays. Rustin practiced and believed in nonviolence as the only method to solve problems. Rustin assisted with the Freedom Rides to help against racial segregation using civil disobedience. Rustin helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to help promote Martin Luther King’s leadership role. Rustin was also a key player and organizer of the March onWashington. Rustin was a role model for other younger activists and helped them with other organizations such as Congress on Racial Equality and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Rustin worked with working and unemployed Blacks and the labor movement.

Later Years

In his later years Bayard Rustin worked for gay rights, human rights and with the labor movement. Rustin worked for several organizations to fight for both gay and human rights. Rustin also became the head of the AFL-CIO’s A. Philip Randolph Institute to promote unionization of African Americans. Rustin worked to strengthen the labor union to help the African American community. Rustin worked tirelessly to help others in need and continuously tried to help any group that was underrepresented or was in need of help.

Bayard Rustin was an activist from an early age. Rustin struggled with fighting for the rights of blacks, gays and many other underrepresented groups. Rustin’s beliefs were simple enough; nonviolence, respect for human nature and the belief that all people are one. Although Rustin was met with adversity for being both Black and Gay he overcame adversity by focusing on the rights and well-being of others.


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    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 5 years ago from West Coast

      JDove - Very interesting. I had not read anything about his adopting his lover. Great tidbit.

    • JDove-Miller profile image

      JDove-Miller 5 years ago from YOUNGSVILLE

      I used to hear Rustin's name a lot during the Civil Rights era. But his name has faded from the limelight since his death. Since Rustin and his male partner could not marry, before he died, Rustin adopted his gay lover so that he could legally inherit his estate. A problem solver, indeed.