West Chester native Bayard Rustin is an often-forgotten civil rights activist and gay rights advocate, but his role in the civil rights movement cannot be overstated, writes Jerald Podair for My Journal Courier.
Rustin was also a labor unionist, a socialist, and a pacifist who was one of America’s signature radical voices during the last century. Today, scholars would refer to him as an intersectionalist, a man who understood the ties between various forms of discrimination, like racism, sexism, and classism.
It is believed that Rustin’s civil rights devotion was built by his grandmother, who worked with NAACP and hosted numerous leaders of the Black community, including W.E.B. Du Bois and Mary McLeod Bethune, at their West Chester home.
During his life, Rustin helped found the Congress of Racial Equality and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He trained and mentored Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and advised him on the principles of Gandhi and nonviolent direct action. He was also one of the organizers of the March on Washington in 1963.
However, due to being gay, he was often forced to remain in the background. He died in 1987, never abandoning his radical vision.
Read more about Bayard Rustin in My Journal Courier.