Countdown to the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington

18 Days to go!

The Deputy Director of the March was Bayard Rustin a talented organizer with a diverse background of activism for economic justice, peace efforts and human rights. Born in 1912, he was raised as a Quaker in West Chester, Pennsylvania and had an early exposure to the work of the NAACP. bayardrustin

Rustin attended Wilberforce and Cheyney State Teacher’s College (both Historically Black Colleges) and later City College of New York but never obtained an academic degree.  He was an organizer for the Young Communist League in the late 30’s, a staunch ally of labor, worked with A. Philip Randolph on hiring inequities for Black Americans during World War II and was later jailed when he refused to register for the draft..  Rustin was also openly gay.

Rustin, a student of Gandhi’s tactics of non-violent resistance became Martin Luther King Jr.’s advisor and ally in 1956 during the Montgomery Bus Boycott developing strategies of civil disobedience for the burgeoning civil rights movement.

When it came time to organize the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, Randolph turned to Rustin to lead the effort but not without criticism from those within and outside of the movement because of his ties to communism and his homosexuality.

However, with the backing of King and Randolph, Rustin successfully orchestrated the assemblage of 5,000 security marshalls, 2,000 chartered buses, 21 chartered trains, 10 chartered airlines, hundreds of volunteers and 250,000 marchers.

This week, the White House announced that Rustin will receive the nation’s highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Three, great resources on Bayard Rustin:

D’Emilio,John.  Lost Prophet:  The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin; Simon and Schuster, 20003

Brother Outsider:  The Life of Bayard Rustin– award-winning documentary by filmmakers:  Nancy Kates, Bennett Singer and Sam Pollard.  Available here. and also on Netflix


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