In honor of Black History Month we salute...
Bayard Rustin-Gay Black Activist-Black History MonthBayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence and gay rights. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania where his family was involved in civil rights work. In 1936, he moved to Harlem, New York City, and earned a living as a nightclub and stage singer, and continued activism for civil rights.
After the passage of the civil-rights legislation of 1964–65, Rustin focused attention on the economic problems of working-class and unemployed African Americans, suggesting that the civil-rights movement had left its period of "protest" and had entered an era of "politics", in which the Black community had to ally with the labor movement. Rustin became the head of the AFL–CIO's A.Philip Randolph Institute, which promoted the integration of formerly all-white unions and promoted the unionization of African Americans. The Institute under Rustin's leadership also advanced and campaigned for (from 1966 to 1968) A Freedom Budget for All Americans, linking the concepts of racial justice with economic justice; supported by over 200 prominent civil rights activists, trade unionists, religious leaders, academics and others, it outlined a plan to eliminate poverty and unemployment in the United States within a ten year period. Rustin became an honorary chairperson of the Socialist Party of America in 1972, before it changed its name to Social Democrats, USA (SDUSA); Rustin acted as national chairman of SDUSA during the 1970s. During the 1970s and 1980s, Rustin served on many humanitarian missions, such as aiding refugees from Communist Vietnam and Cambodia. He was on a humanitarian mission in Haiti when he died in 1987.
Rustin was a gay man who had been arrested for homosexual activity in 1953 (which was criminalized in parts of the United States until 2003). Rustin's sexuality, or at least his embarrassingly public criminal charge, was criticized by some fellow pacifists and civil-rights leaders. Rustin was attacked as a "pervert" or "immoral influence" by political opponents from segregationists to Black power militants, and from the 1950s through the 1970s. In addition, his pre-1941 Communist Party affiliation when he was a young man was controversial. To avoid such attacks, Rustin served only rarely as a public spokesperson. He usually acted as an influential adviser to civil-rights leaders. In the 1970s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes.
On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.