Gay History Bayard Rustin Black Civil and Gay Rights Activist

Updated: Aug 16

We wanted to reflect this month for LGBTQ Pride on how we got to where we are today. In doing so we came across the story of Bayard Rustin who was a civil rights activist who worked with Dr Martin Luther King Jr and who was also gay.



Bayard Rustin was a civil rights organizer and activist. He was also openly gay which made things even harder for Rustin to fight for equality however that never slowed him down. It kept the fire going for him to keep fighting for what was right.


Rustin was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania on March 17, 1912. Rustin was involved in numerous civil rights protests and arrested numerous times for civil disobedience and for just being an openly gay man.

Rustin attended Wilberforce University in Ohio and Cheyney State Teachers college. Both were historically known as black only colleges. Rustin was briefly involved with the Young Communist league until he found out about their ideas and it was not sitting well with him. That still did not stop him from studying socialism and having a philosophy of combination off pacifism of the Quaker religion and studying nonviolent resistance that was taught by Mahatma Gandhi.


Bayard was intrigued by socialism and began to work for A. Philip Randolph who was an American Labor Leader. During World War 2 he worked for Randolph and fought against racial discrimination in war-related hiring.


Bayard was met with so much discrimination not only for being black but also being gay and black. Arrested several times, and spent 2 years in Jail for not registering for the draft.


Bayard worked a lot for the civil rights movement and a lot of it was behind the scenes. A committee that was set up by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr stated that they felt Dr. King would be at risk if he was to work publicly with Rustin Bayard. So Bayard had to work behind the scenes and was also the organizer for the March on Washington.


Listen to this interview of Bayard Rustin.







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