Rustin, Bayard

Rustin, Bayard,

1910–87, African-American civil-rights leader, b. West Chester, Pa. He attended three colleges but did not obtain a degree. A Quaker, he was imprisoned as a conscientious objector for more than two years during World War II. Devoting much of his early career to pacifist activities, he was (1941–53) on the staff of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and headed (1953–55) the War Resisters League. In the early 1940s, Rustin also founded the New York branch of the Congress of Racial EqualityCongress of Racial Equality
(CORE), civil-rights organization founded (1942) in Chicago by James Farmer. Dedicated to the use of nonviolent direct action, CORE initially sought to promote better race relations and end racial discrimination in the United States.
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, and he soon became a key figure in the struggle for African-American civil rights. As special assistant (1955–60) to Martin Luther KingKing, Martin Luther, Jr.,
1929–68, American clergyman and civil-rights leader, b. Atlanta, Ga., grad. Morehouse College (B.A., 1948), Crozer Theological Seminary (B.D., 1951), Boston Univ. (Ph.D., 1955).
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, Jr., he helped set up the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and, more generally, played an influential role in infusing King's movement with the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence (see Gandhi, MohandasGandhi, Mohandas Karamchand
, 1869–1948, Indian political and spiritual leader, b. Porbandar. In South Africa

Educated in India and in London, he was admitted to the English bar in 1889 and practiced law unsuccessfully in India for two years.
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. Later, working in association with A. Philip RandolphRandolph, Asa Philip,
1889–1979, U.S. labor leader, b. Crescent City, Fla., attended the College of the City of New York. As a writer and editor of the black magazine The Messenger, which he helped to found, Randolph became interested in the labor movement.
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, Rustin was the chief organizer of the massive 1963 March on Washington. From 1964 to 1987 he served as president of the Randolph Institute, a trade-union, educational, and civil-rights group. An openly gay man in a largely homophobic era, Rustin was usually obliged to employ his superb organizational and strategic skills behind the scenes.


See his collected writings in Down the Line (1971) and Time on Two Crosses (2003), ed. by D. W. Carbado and D. Weise; biographies by J. Anderson (1997) and J. D'Emilio (2003); studies by N. Dobrosky (1988), J. Haskins (1997), and D. Levine (1999); N. D. Kates and B. Singer, dir., Brother Outsider (documentary film, 2003).

Rustin, Bayard

(1910–87) institute head, civil rights activist; born in West Chester, Pa. Schooled in literature and history at Cheyney State (Pa.) and Wilberforce (Ohio) Colleges, he joined the Young Communist League (1936) and became an organizer (1938). He also sang occasionally at a New York City nightclub with notables Josh White and Leadbelly. He left the Communist Party (1941) and joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a nonviolent antiwar group. In 1940–41, he helped A. Philip Randolph plan a threatened march on Washington to demand better job opportunities for blacks in the defense industrry. He served several jail terms in the 1940s; for conscientious objection during World War II (released 1945), for demonstrating in the American Indian independence movement, and for participating in a North Carolina "freedom ride" (1947). He was involved in various pacifist movements (1947–55), then joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) (1955) as Martin Luther King's special assistant, serving as the organizational coordinator for the SCLC March on Washington (1963). Named executive director of the newly founded A. Philip Randoph Institute (1964–87), he worked to promote programs to cure America's social and economic ills. Although over the years he advocated the orderly seizure of political power by activist blacks, white liberals, religious parties, and labor unions to effect a rebalance of national priorities, he never favored black separatism.