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Today's History Lesson

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Our current history lesson is about Bayard Rustin (pronounced "Bye-ard)

 (March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987)


Bayard Rustin was a key leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. Rustin worked with A. Philip Randolph on the March on Washington Movement in 1941 to press for an end to racial discrimination in employment. Rustin later organized Freedom Rides, and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership. He taught King about non-violence and peaceful civil disobedience, thus influencing King’s approach to social justice work.


Rustin served as the key organizer for the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin worked alongside Ella Baker, a co-director of the Crusade for Citizenship in 1954. Before the Montgomery bus boycott, he helped organize a group that provided material and legal assistance to those being evicted from their tenant farms and households in numerous states around the south.

As a declared conscientious objector, Rustin, was convicted of violating the Selective Service Act, for which he was imprisoned for two years. During that time he organized protests against racially segregated housing and dining facilities. During his incarceration, he also organized a Free India Committee. After his release from prison, he was frequently arrested for protesting against British colonial rule in India and Africa. He also spent time in California working to protect the property rights of over 120,000 Japanese Americans who were put in concentration camps by the U.S. government during World War II.


Rustin became the head of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, which promoted the integration of formerly all-White unions and promoted the unionization of African Americans. During the 1970s and 1980s, Rustin served on many humanitarian missions, such as aiding refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia. 


Rustin was a gay man and, due to criticism over his sexuality by others in the civil rights movement, he usually acted as an influential adviser behind the scenes to those leaders. In the 1980s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay causes, speaking at events as an activist and supporter of human rights. In 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 


Source: Retrieved November 24, 2023.

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