I Must Resist: Bayard Rustins Life in Letters

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It is a volume that is rich in Rustin's wisdom and highly relevant to today's debates over issues from gay rights to affirmative action. They reveal Rustin's commitment to speaking the truth to power, which he encouraged in correspondence with students, citizens, and politicians, including every president from Truman to Reagan. Long assembles an impressive narrative of Rustin's remarkable achievements, helping on this th anniversary of his birth to revive the complex legacy of the civil rights struggle's hidden man.

Book TV: Michael Long, "I Must Resist"

Each letter is prefaced by a paragraph providing context, helpful for those who don't have a deep knowledge of the events of that era. His letters-some are collected here chronologically-reveal an eloquent, persuasive activist, unafraid to challenge so-called authority figures when he encountered injustice. The letters are an example of a political activist's tireless efforts to promote American civil rights and throw light on the struggles one has to undergo against all opposition, especially when there are ideological differences: Rustin's strongly held views on non-violence often clashed with other Trotskyite activists who believed that change was possible only through violence.

Remarkably moving in their spirit and intention, the letters symbolise dedication to a political and social purpose intended for racial justice and equality.

Toon meer Toon minder. Long Uitgever City Lights Books.

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Increasingly, he viewed the struggle for civil rights in the United States as part of a worldwide movement against war and colonialism. Gay sex was a crime in every state. But Randolph got him a similar job with the War Resisters League, a pacifist group founded in , where Rustin worked for the next twelve years.

Over the next decade, Rustin receded from public view. He continued to play a critical behind-the-scenes role as an organizer within the civil-rights movement. He had to cut short his first visit to Montgomery because, as a gay man and a former Communist, he was a political liability. This was the genesis of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—conceived by Rustin and founded with King as its first president—which would catapult King to the national stage.

But in , Randolph, as the elder statesman of the movement, pulled together the leaders of the major civil-rights, labor, and liberal religious organizations and laid out his plan for a march on Washington. Randolph envisioned a march that would push for federal legislation, particularly for the Civil Rights Act. President John F. Kennedy had proposed that law, but it had stalled in Congress.

Its name would be the March for Jobs and Freedom. And Randolph wanted Rustin to run it. The leaders Randolph gathered endorsed the plan. Randolph outmaneuvered Wilkins by announcing that he would be its director and choose his own deputy: Rustin, of course.

i must resist: bayard rustin’s life in letters

Kennedy tried to dissuade them from holding the march, contending that it would undermine support for the Civil Rights Act. But Randolph would not be cowed. Three weeks before the August 28 march, Sen. Strom Thurmond, a South Carolina segregationist, publicly attacked Rustin on the floor of the Senate by reading reports of his Pasadena arrest for homosexual behavior a decade earlier—documents he probably got from FBI director J.

Edgar Hoover. The march was a huge success. More than , people attended. He continued his organizing work within the civil-rights, peace, and labor movements. He was still in demand as a public speaker, and he was still valued for his strategic brilliance.

History’s Oldest-Known Valentine Was Written in Prison

But he never again had the same influence he did when organizing the Washington march. In that piece he argued that the coalition that had come together for the March on Washington needed to place less emphasis on protest and focus on electing liberal Democrats who could enact a progressive policy agenda centered on employment, housing, and civil rights. They did not trust the unions or the Democratic Party. Rustin was among the first public figures to call for the withdrawal of all American forces from South Vietnam, but as LBJ escalated the war, Rustin muted his criticisms.

He wanted to avoid alienating LBJ, key Democrats, and union leaders who supported the war—and who funded the A. Philip Randolph Institute, which had been created in to provide Rustin with an organizational home. When King announced his opposition to the war in , it caused a rift between the two men.

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin's Life in Letters by Bayard Rustin, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

He had been wary of the burgeoning gay-rights movement, which exploded after the Stonewall riot in New York City in But at the end of his life, when he was involved in a stable relationship, he began speaking publicly about the importance of civil rights for gays and lesbians. Thanks in part to a documentary, Brother Outsider , Rustin has become an icon for gay-rights activists. In , a year before he died of a burst appendix, Rustin was asked by Joseph Beam, a writer and gay-rights activist, to contribute an essay to a volume on the experience of gay black men.

Rustin declined. My activism did not spring from my being gay, or, for that matter, from my being black.

History’s Oldest-Known Valentine Was Written in Prison

Rather, it is rooted fundamentally in my Quaker upbringing and the values that were instilled in me by my grandparents who reared me. Those values are based on the concept of a single human family and the belief that all members of that family are equal The racial injustice that was present in this country during my youth was a challenge to my belief in the oneness of the human family.

It demanded my involvement in the struggle to achieve interracial democracy, but it is very likely that I would have been involved had I been a white person with the same philosophy. Needless to say, I worked side-by-side with many white people who held these same values, some of whom gave as much, if not more, to the struggle than myself. Peter Dreier is E. Please email comments to letters commonwealmagazine. The Man Behind the March.


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Remembering Bayard Rustin. By Peter Dreier. Share Share Twitter Print. As Rustin wrote after his release in June We were there by virtue of a commitment we had made to a moral position; and that gave us a psychological attitude the average prisoner did not have Published in the issue:.


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