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Black In History: Martin Luther King, Jr. & Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin (right) and Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1956
bayard Rustin, known as “Mr. March on Washington”, was responsible for the organization and success of the march on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr. In addition to being an important figure in the civil rights movement and the march on Washington, Rustin also serves as an important figure for the LGBT community. Rustin, who happened to be a black Quaker, was also openly gay.
Excerpt from the Washington Post:
By the late 1950s, Rustin had emerged as a key adviser to King. He was a strategist during the Montgomery bus boycott, helped launch the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was credited with persuading the civil rights leader to embrace the tenets of Gandhian nonviolence. But other black leaders disapproved of his frank sexuality and its attendant arrest record.
In 1960, Adam Clayton Powell, the minister-congressman from Harlem, threatened to float a rumor that King was one of Rustin’s lovers if King didn’t exile him from his inner circle. King pushed him away, reluctantly, and Rustin resigned from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
“Bayard had a lot of baggage — communist youth member, conscientious objector,” says Walter Naegle, Rustin’s partner for the last decade of his life. “But being gay was the one thing that was still unforgivable to a lot of civil rights leaders.”
It is noted that it is because of Rustin that Martin Luther King, Jr. changed his mind about incorporating violence into his cause. prior to meeting Rustin it is said that King had a number of guns inside of his home. Rustin made it a point to teach King and other civil rights activist “Ghanaian non-violent direct protest”