Bayard Rustin March 7, 1912 - August 24, 1987
The logistics of planning a school PTA meeting can be tricky. Trying to coordinate the schedules of administrators, teachers, and parents, is no easy task. But imagine taking that school PTA meeting and multiplying it 300 fold. That is precisely what Bayard Rustin accomplished August 28, 1963 when he planned and organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Over 300,000 people participated in that demonstration.
Rustin was a Civil Rights leader, community organizer, and an activist. From 1955 through 1968, Rustin offered essential strategic planning and leadership for the Civil Rights Movement. He influenced youth through organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and coordinated the Congress On Racial Equality group (CORE).
Rustin is most known for his role as the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. His non-violent approach was adopted from the teaching of Mahatma Gandhi. Throughout his life and career, Rustin was threatened, beaten, and imprisoned because he was an openly gay man. This mistreatment did not dissuade him from following his heart.
Rustin contributed to different pacifist movements and was imprisoned for two years because he refused to register for the draft during the Second World War.
Despite the threats and violent attacks, Rustin continued to fight for justice, LBGT rights and the rights for all oppressed people. Rustin published a book on Civil Rights in 1971 entitled, Down the Line and another in 1976 entitled, Strategies For Freedom.