Celebrates the life and legacy of Bayard Rustin, the civil rights leader behind the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
While we can all recall images of Martin Luther King Jr. giving his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of a massive crowd at Lincoln Memorial, few of us remember the man who organized this watershed nonviolent protest in eight short weeks: Bayard Rustin.
This was far from Rustin’s first foray into the fight for civil rights. As a world-traveling pacifist, he brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the forefront of US civil rights demonstrations, helped build the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led the fight for economic justice, and played a deeply influential role in the life of Dr. King by helping to mold him into an international symbol of nonviolent resistance. Rustin’s legacy touches many areas of contemporary life—from civil resistance to violent uprisings, democracy to socialism, and criminal justice reform to war resistance.
Despite these achievements, Rustin was often relegated to the background. He was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era. With expansive, searching, and sometimes critical essays from a range of esteemed writers—including Rustin’s own partner, Walter Naegle—this volume draws a full picture of Bayard Rustin: a gay, pacifist, socialist political radical who changed the course of US history and set a precedent for future civil rights activism, from LGBTQ+ Pride to Black Lives Matter.
Michael G. Long writes about civil rights, nonviolent protest, and gender and sexuality. He’s the editor of 42 Today: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, as well as the author and editor of several books on Bayard Rustin, including Unstoppable: How Bayard Rustin Organized the 1963 March on Washington, Troublemaker for Justice: Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the March on Washington, and I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters.
Rustin has emerged of late as a hero almost perfectly tuned to our time. Bayard Rustin: A Legacy of Protest and Politics, a collection of essays on his life and times, edited by Michael G. Long, contains plenty of thoughtful new material, not least an essay by Rustin’s surviving partner, Walter Naegle.
~Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
Rustin was multifaceted but fallible. In this insightful book, several observers contend that no one else could have done as well. Others are impressed by how Rustin combated oppression and injustice around the world…This book makes clear that Bayard Rustin, a man for his time, is a man for our time too.
The essays in this lively, thought-provoking collection amplify what is known of Rustin’s trials and achievements. They offer inspiration for progressives and democratic socialists today by showing how Rustin lived openly and without apology as gay man and a pacifist. The collection also amplifies Rustin’s voice, which rang out to ensure that marginalized voices would be heard.
~The Gay & Lesbian Review
Bayard Rustin: A Legacy of Protest and Politics honors the gay civil rights activist’s relentless pursuit of truth by casting a critical eye on his life and work.
~Elaina Patton, NBC News
This volume celebrates the life and legacy of Bayard Rustin, the often overlooked civil rights leader behind the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. While Martin Luther King Jr.’s 'I Have a Dream' speech is etched into the collective memory, fewer people recognize the pivotal role Rustin played in organizing this monumental event in just eight weeks.
As Long’s book eloquently spells out, King was the visionary of the [civil rights] movement, while the actual organizing fell almost mainly on its key strategist, Rustin... A particularly inspiring contributor to the upcoming book is Walter Naegle, Rustin’s partner for the last years of his life.
This book needs to sit on the shelf next to everything written about Dr. King. It’s an essential companion to any volume about the Civil Rights Movement. If you need history, find Bayard Rustin and settle in.
~Terri Schlichenmeyer, Bookworm Sez
Bayard Rustincontained multitudes. Many years ago I had the experience of listening to him deliver a part lecture, part performance revealing several of his identities that included pacifist, socialist, gay, organizer, ghost writer, advisor, leader, coalition builder, internationalist, anti-colonialist, singer, Quaker and African American. Mike Long enlists a diverse group of scholars, activists, and writers in an excellent attempt to capture them for those who could not witness them personally.
~Charles P. Henry, author of Racial Imagination and the American Dream
Every chapter in this smart, accessible book is brimming with fascinating stories, thoughtful analysis, and important critique. It’s an inspirational reminder that fierce ancestors like Bayard Rustin were also complicated humans, like all of us. Rustin was a dynamic and multi-dimensional political leader who defies any one label: Quaker, pacifist, prisoner, communist, internationalist, nonviolent strategist, organizer, socialist, social democrat, polemicist, singer, queer!
~Brian Jones, author of The Tuskegee Student Uprising: A History