Bayard Rustin

Quick Look At Rustin

Bayard Rustin was a gay Civil Rights leader and activist, and he was also an advisor for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Early Life

Bayard Rustin was born on March 17, 1912, in West Chester Pennsylvania. Growing up, he was told that the woman who was actually his mother was his sister, and the people who were actually his grandparents were his parents.


Rustin attended two historically Black colleges, Wilberforce University, and Cheyney State Teachers College. In 1930, he was involved with the Young Communist League for a short period of time, but he resigned after being disappointed in some of the organization's activities. In 1937, Rustin moved to New York City, where he studied at City College of New York


Rustin strongly believed that violence was unacceptable under any circumstances. He fought for what was right peacefully. During World War II, he worked with A. Phillip Randolph, a social activist, to help Black people fight against racial discrimination in the hiring process of war-related positions. Rustin was involved with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an anti-violence change group. During the Second World War, he was arrested and sent to jail for two years, for refusing to register after being drafted to the war. After getting out of jail, Rustin participated in a public transit segregation protest, in 1947, where he was arrested again, and sentenced to several weeks of labor. In 1953, he was arrested yet again for publicly engaging in homosexuality, and sentenced to 60 days in prison. After serving his time, Rustin continued to stay true to himself and live as an openly gay man. In 1958, he helped plan a march in England, with over 10,000 attendees, where they peacefully fought against the use of nuclear weapons. In 1955, Rustin began to work for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an advisor. He helped him with tactics and taught him about Gandhi's non-violent resistance. He also helped King in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the March on Washington, where Dr. King said his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech. In 1965, Rustin and Randolph co-founded the A. Phillip Randolph Institute. After this, he continued with his activism and even became a public speaker. Later in his career, Rustin was awarded many honorary degrees, and he continued his work as an activist and public speaker, but he started focusing on gay and lesbian rights, as well as Civil Rights.

On August 24, 1987, Rustin passed away of a ruptured appendix. Bayard Rustin was an outstanding man who truly had grit. He was arrested 3 times, and still continued to fight and stand up for what is right.