Honoring individuals who have shown us that anything is achievable is a way to inspire kids to believe in themselves. For this reason, we have been commemorating Juneteenth for the ending of slavery on June 19th, 1865. Also, we have been celebrating individuals like Dorothy Vaughan, Martin Luther King Jr, and Bayard Rustin, who all deserve recognition because they paved the way for children of color to experience a more equal and inclusive future. In this blog, we want to share the story of Bayard Rustin. His story is not only inspiring but is a great way to keep the advocacy and awareness for human rights, civil rights, and the fight of the LGTBQAI+ community as we celebrate Juneteenth and Pride Month.
Life and History of Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin was born on March 17, 1912, in West Chester, PA. His mother, Julia, was a domestic worker, and his father, Janifer, taught at the local black High School. Rustin went on to attend Wilberforce University (now Cheyney State) before transferring to New York City College of Technology, where he graduated with an engineering degree. After graduating from college, he worked as a civil engineer. However, Rustin soon began to focus on social justice issues and became involved in the labor movement. Later, he became one of the founders of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
Despite his degree in engineering, Bayard is most famous for his work as a civil rights activist. He was instrumental in planning the March on Washington, which took place in 1963 and drew over 250,000 people to protest racial segregation and discrimination. During this event, Martin Luther King delivered his memorable “I Have a Dream” speech. With similar dreams, Bayard also worked extensively with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., helping to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and serving as its first Director of Nonviolent Education.
Advocating For Civil Rights and Fighting Against Segregation
You may recall in our related blog: “Juneteenth: A New Era Of Hope For African American People“; that the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation was in 1963. However, most of the goals of protests in earlier years discussing unemployment, job mobility, low wages, and racial segregation, were not yet realized. These situations prompted more discussions about a larger march for political and economic justice, setting the stage for the protest we mentioned above, better known as the March on Washington.
Rustin’s advocacy stretched far beyond the streets of Washington as he also supported black children by fighting against segregation laws in public schools, so kids could have access to better education. He also fought against housing discrimination, allowing more economic opportunities and better living conditions for black families.
Pre-Stonewall Era: A Gay Black Man In The Civil Rights Movement
As a black man, Rustin experienced racial discrimination. He also was treated as a second-class citizen at work or in public spaces like restaurants. He also faced additional challenges throughout his life that were unrelated to his color. But that didn’t stop him from working tirelessly on behalf of people who were discriminated against because they were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Rustin was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and fired from important leadership positions, mainly because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era. Even his sexual orientation made him unpopular with some members of the black community who did not want their “image” tarnished by association with homosexuals.
The philosophy that helped him overcome the many challenges he faced in his life was: “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving” same words than Dr. Martin Luther King said on his speech. Bayard was a tireless activist who never gave up fighting for what he believed in, even when it was difficult or unpopular. He believed that all people are created equal and should be treated accordingly.
Bayard Rustin’s work was instrumental in the civil rights movement. He believed that all people should be treated equally and worked tirelessly to make this happen, even when it was unpopular or dangerous for him. His non-cooperation, truth, and honesty techniques during protest then became an inspiration and support for young activists like Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, James Farmer, Homer Jack, George Houser, and others.
Bayard’s Legacy Changed The World For People of Color and The LGTBQ+ Community
On August 24, 1987, at the age of 76, Rustin said goodbye to the world he worked so hard to change. You can earn more about his life and work by watching the documentary called, “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin”. This film tells his story in detail and includes interviews with some who knew him well, like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X.
Bayard Rustin’s legacy is one of courage and compassion. He dedicated his life to fighting for social justice and equality for all people, regardless of race or sexual orientation. His work has helped to make the world a more just place for children of color and LGBTQ youth. As a donor, you are just like Bayard Rustin because you are also making a difference in the world. Thanks to your support, we help kids in our communities to develop the self-esteem they need to succeed!