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Remembering MLK friend Bayard Rustin


Stormy
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Bayard Rustin was arrested early in his career for public sex with prostitutes and this event was criticized by

some fellow pacifists and civil-rights leaders because it detracted from his effectiveness. Rustin was attacked as a "pervert" or "immoral influence" by political opponents from segregationists to conservative black leaders from the 1950s through the 1970s. In addition, his pre-1941 Communist Party affiliation when he was a young man was controversial, having caused scrutiny by the FBI. To avoid such attacks, Rustin served rarely as a public spokesperson. He usually acted as an influential adviser behind the scenes to civil-rights leaders. In the 1980s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes

 

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Bayard Rustin was arrested early in his career for public sex with prostitutes and this event was criticized by

some fellow pacifists and civil-rights leaders because it detracted from his effectiveness. Rustin was attacked as a "pervert" or "immoral influence" by political opponents from segregationists to conservative black leaders from the 1950s through the 1970s. In addition, his pre-1941 Communist Party affiliation when he was a young man was controversial, having caused scrutiny by the FBI. To avoid such attacks, Rustin served rarely as a public spokesperson. He usually acted as an influential adviser behind the scenes to civil-rights leaders. In the 1980s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes

 

If I'm not mistaken, King was one of the civil rights leaders who distanced himself from Rustin at times when he felt he couldn't risk being too closely tied to him. But I don't think he was ever deceitful about it the way some others were.

“Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”

 

-The Marx Brothers

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On August 8, 2013, President Barack Obama announced he would posthumously award Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award in the United States. The press release stated:

 

"Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. An advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights."

 

At the White House ceremony on November 20, 2013, President Obama presented Rustin's award to Walter Naegle, his partner of ten years at the time of Rustin's death.

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his pre-1941 Communist Party affiliation when he was a young man was controversial

 

Nice Charles Pierce column on the authentic radicalism of MLK, which applies to Bayard Rustin, and which is so often smoothed over with platitudes during holiday tributes. MLK wasn't murdered because he was a moderate. An excerpt:

 

"Dr. King meant to take from America’s racial history its anesthetic qualities. The country began with Thomas Jefferson’s great bluff in Philadelphia in 1776. All men, he wrote, were created equal. A slaveowner himself, Jefferson was daring the people of his time, and his posterity, to throw that back at him and at the country he was helping to create. Samuel Johnson called that bluff at the time, asking, “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” But nobody made Jefferson put up or shut up more lethally than Dr. King did. After all, 100 years or so before Dr. King began his mission, the country convulsed in a bloody Civil War, trying to frame an answer to Samuel Johnson’s vinegary question. Southern white supremacy was crushed on the battlefield, and in a thousand plantations left smoldering in Sherman’s wake.

 

And then the country gave this great victory back, little by little, in the curdled promises of Reconstruction, in the establishment and tolerance of Jim Crow, and in the acceptance in our politics that the national government had no role to play even in proscribing the crime of lynching. Dr. Johnson called only the bluff of 1776. Dr. King called that bluff, and the bluff of 1865, and the bluff of 1896, and, indeed, the bluff of the entire stretch of American history. It’s fitting that, in Washington, his monument stands across the reflecting pond from Jefferson’s, his granite form staring implacably into that beautiful marble temple, waiting forever for a final answer that may never come."

 

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a15165611/martin-luther-king-radical-legacy/

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If I'm not mistaken, King was one of the civil rights leaders who distanced himself from Rustin at times when he felt he couldn't risk being too closely tied to him. But I don't think he was ever deceitful about it the way some others were.

This is true. It was Rustin's peers that found him unfit for the spotlight--or even being credited for the work that he was doing. This was more a reaction to his Communist beliefs and associations. However, it's unlikely his sexuality had nothing to do with these decisions.

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