Photo of Civil Rights leader, Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin was an amazing and often forgotten civil rights leader of the 1960’s. He was the leading organizer of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream’ march on DC, August 28, 1963. He was a friend to both MLK Jr and John Lewis.
The MLK speech was a turning point in the civil rights movement and helped bring about the Civil Rights’ Act of 1964.
Rustin was often shoved aside because he was openly gay.
He was a member of two minorities.
As time passed, Rustin developed a range of right-wing views that conflicted with the movement’s talking points.
When he started out, he was a Communist, but he moved quickly into Socialism, and later became a rabid anti-Communist with many Conservative beliefs.
He liked government programs and strong labor unions. He believed that the blacks had to unite with unions to form a political movement. He felt the protest movement was over and a new political era had begun.
Originally he was an anti-war activist but later came to see that freedom was more important than peace. ‘Whereas I used to believe that pacifism had a political value, I no longer believe that.’ He believed in finding alternatives to war but also believed it was ‘ridiculous’ to only talk about peace.
Rustin broke with the civil rights movement over their open opposition to the Vietnam War. He was ‘deeply disturbed by the prospect of Vietnam’s people coming under the domination of a totalitarian regime on the Soviet or Chinese model.’ He did not believe in linking racial equality to an attack on American power.
Rustin was an outspoken critic of black nationalism and affirmative action, which he saw as polarizing.
In the 1970’s, he dedicated himself to gay and lesbian causes.
In 1975, he organized the Black Americans to Support Israel Committee and later became president of the conservative A. Philip Randolph Institute. He was president of the institute when he died.
He died of a ruptured appendix in 1987.
His image and what he stood for is being sanitized by the left. Politico had a piece Tuesday that made him sound like Al Sharpton, completely ignoring his conservative side.
On Wednesday, the left will choose to remember him as a Socialist but those of us on the right who admire him will remember him for his ability to evolve and his dedication to freedom for every man. He will be honored, but not as the complex man he was, just as MLK Jr is being remembered for things he never said or did.
Bayard Rustin will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.