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Bayard Rustin – A historic hero emerges

by Margaret Manalo

Published: February 1, 2015

As influential as Martin Luther King Jr. was, he did not achieve his successes alone. Another historic figure shared the heavy burdens, tedious planning, and well-earned victories alongside him. Unfortunately, Bayard Rustin chose to steer clear from the spotlight and is now known as the unsung hero of the American Civil Rights Movement. Take this quiz to learn more about his life and contributions!

QUESTIONS:

1. Where did the values that inspired Bayard Rustin come from, which, affected his notion to be satisfied with remaining behind the scenes of the projects in which he was involved?

A. Methodism
B. Quaker
C. Presbyterianism
D. Baptist

2. Along with segregation, what other controversial, and mostly taboo topic was Bayard Rustin involved in?

A. abortion
B. religion
C. homosexuality
D. infanticide

3. Who provided the strongest influences on Bayard Rustin's role in the Civil Rights Movement?

A. Gandhi
B. Rosa Parks
C. Malcolm X
D. Martin Luther King, Jr.

4. True or False: A documentary film was created about Bayard Rustin.

A. True
B. False

5. What was Rustin’s most influential contribution to assisting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

A. writing speeches
B. orchestrating meetings
C. contacting other activist leaders
D. introducing Gandhi’s teachings

6. In what section of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom manual were the goals for the protest most distinct?

A. Why We March
B. Our Demands
C. How Our Demands Will Be Presented To Congress
D. Signs And Banners

7. What award did President Barack Obama bestow upon Bayard Rustin?

A. Gandhi Peace Prize
B. Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) Peace Award
C. Medal of Freedom
D. Congressional Gold Medal

 

ANSWERS:

1. [B] Quaker
Bayard Rustin’s biographer, John D’Emilio stated that Rustin’s Quaker heritage contrasted with his extensive involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. D’Emilio noted, “I think of it as a part of the Quaker heritage that he internalized. You don’t push yourself forward. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get the credit for it. What is important is this notion of speaking truth to power.” Rustin’s grandparents taught the Quaker “values” that “were based on the concept of a single human family and the belief that all members of that family are equal.” The egalitarian and pacifistic teachings that Julie Rustin, his grandmother, instilled throughout Rustin’s younger years soon flourished to shape his outlook on life – helping to shape the Civil Rights Movement.

Sources:
Corley, C. (2013, August 15). Bayard Rustin: The Man Who Organized The March On Washington. Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/08/15/212338844/bayard-rustin-the-man-who-organized-the-march-on-washington

Dixon, M. (2014, January 1). Bayard Rustin's Civil Rights Legacy Began with Grandmother Julia Rustin. Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.mainlinetoday.com/core/pagetools.php?pageid=10587&url=/Main-Line-Today/October-2013/Bayard-Rustins-Civil-Rights-Legacy-Began-with-Grandmother-Julia-Rustin/&mode=print

Gates, H. (2013, January 1). Who Designed the March on Washington? Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/100-amazing-facts/who-designed-the-march-on-washington/

2. [C] homosexuality
Despite the forbiddance of homosexuality in the 1960s, Bayard Rustin was a relatively open homosexual – an icon for the Gay Rights Movement. When he confided to his grandmother Julia Rustin that he preferred the company of young men over girls, she supportively stated, “I suppose that’s what you need to do.” Rustin made his voice heard with his unashamed openness, despite angered authorities and other civil rights activists who attempted to push him aside for being gay. Towards the final years of his life, Rustin became increasingly involved with gay rights. Rustin’s surviving life partner, Walter Naegle, said that Rustin saw gay rights as “another challenge, another barrier that had to be broken down – a larger struggle for human rights and for individual freedoms.” Activist Mandy Carter who is on the leadership council for the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT civil rights group, stated that “For me and for a lot of us who are black, and gay and lesbian, bi, trans, who see ourselves as social justice advocates as well, to have this person [Bayard Rustin] — such an amazing role model."

Source:
Corley, C. (2013, August 15). Bayard Rustin: The Man Who Organized The March On Washington. Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/08/15/212338844/bayard-rustin-the-man-who-organized-the-march-on-washington

Gates, H. (2013, January 1). Who Designed the March on Washington? Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/100-amazing-facts/who-designed-the-march-on-washington/

3. [A] Gandhi
In the beginning of his activist career, Rustin was involved in the peace movement and joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). His involvement later led to travels to India and Ghana. There he became an admirer of Gandhi’s pacifist teachings, of which he transferred to the Civil Rights Movement. When Rustin returned to America, he wrote, “We need in every community a group of angelic troublemakers. The only weapon we have is our bodies, and we need to tuck them in places so wheels don’t turn.”

Source:
Gates, H. (2013, January 1). Who Designed the March on Washington? Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/100-amazing-facts/who-designed-the-march-on-washington/

4. [A] True
Known as the “unknown hero” of the Civil Rights Movement, Bayard Rustin’s story was finally presented in detail in the film “Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin.” The film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival along with national broadcasts introduced the visionary strategist and activist to millions of viewers. “Brother Outsider” is a feature-length documentary portrait that focused on Rustin’s activist contributions for peace, racial equality, economic justice, and human rights, which included his work in organizing the March on Washington. Unfortunately, it was Rustin’s open homosexuality that partially kept him in the shadowed background, marking him as a “brother outsider.”

Sources:
Brother Outsider. (2008, January 1). Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://rustin.org/

Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin. (2014, January 1). Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/pov/brotheroutsider/

Gates, H. (2013, January 1). Who Designed the March on Washington? Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/100-amazing-facts/who-designed-the-march-on-washington/

5. [D] introducing Gandhi’s teachings
Bayard Rustin’s first act of support for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in 1956, when he traveled to Alabama to assist in the Montgomery Bus Boycott (which protested segregated buses). As he wrote publicity materials and organized carpools, Rustin was introducing the pacifist teachings of Gandhi to King. From 1956 to 1957, Rustin helped King organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Then he demonstrated against the French government’s nuclear test program in North Africa. Quoted from the documentary film: Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin was his statement that “I want no human being to die.”

Sources:
Gates, H. (2013, January 1). Who Designed the March on Washington? Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/100-amazing-facts/who-designed-the-march-on-washington/

Bayard Rustin Biography. (2015, January 1). Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://www.biography.com/people/bayard-rustin-9467932#martin-luther-king-and-the-march-on-washington

6. [B] Our Demands
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Manual was a detailed work of art. Rustin and his team composed a well-written manual that instructed others in the exact who, what, where, when, and why of one of the greatest protests in history. The manual consisted of 12 pages and included a cover page and table of contents (http://www.crmvet.org/docs/moworg2.pdf). Listed under the Our Demands/What We Demand section are the ten main goals of the march, ensuring that every participant be clear of their purpose. Further details even include the duration of the march, means to arrive at the location, food that each marcher should supply themselves with, as well as children and overnight accommodations.

Source:
Gates, H. (2013, January 1). Who Designed the March on Washington? Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/100-amazing-facts/who-designed-the-march-on-washington/

7. [C] Medal of Freedom
Throughout his career, Bayard Rustin received multiple awards and honorary degrees, as well as having many of his written works published – both in the collection “Down the Line” in 1971 and in “Strategies for Freedom” in 1976. Back in February 1963, President Kennedy made it a presidential privilege to award the Medal of Freedom. In 2013, President Barack Obama, whose election was made possible due to the March on Washington, awarded the distinction to Rustin. Adding to that momentous event was the fact that the march’s 50th anniversary fell on August 28, 2013. Despite having four strikes against him (being a pacifist, radical, black, and gay), Bayard Rustin’s influential contribution to American history make him undoubtedly deserving of the award.

Sources:
Dreier, P. (2013, August 10). Obama Awards Bayard Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom | BillMoyers.com. Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://billmoyers.com/2013/08/10/obama-awards-bayard-rustin-the-presidential-medal-of-freedom/

Gates, H. (2013, January 1). Who Designed the March on Washington? Retrieved December 30, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/100-amazing-facts/who-designed-the-march-on-washington/

Bayard Rustin Biography. (2015, January 1). Retrieved January 5, 2015, from http://www.biography.com/people/bayard-rustin-9467932#martin-luther-king-and-the-march-on-washington

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