27th June 2012
Gay, Black, and Quaker: History Catches Up with Bayard Rustin
Stephen Angell’s piece begins:
Recent weeks have seen history-making collaborations among leaders of the African American and LGBT equality movements. In May, the national board of the NAACP endorsed marriage equality for same-sex couples, shortly after President Obama did the same. This month, LGBT leaders joined the NAACP and others in New York City to call for an end to the police department’s “stop and frisk” policy, which has targeted mostly African Americans and Latinos.
“In the last four years, with the increase in hate crimes across the country, with states attempting to encode discrimination into their state laws and constitutions,” NAACP President Ben Jealous told the Times, “it’s become clear that, just as Bayard Rustin admonished us all, that we would either stand together or die apart.”
That comment certainly led many readers to ask, “as who admonished us?” Bayard Rustin’s pivotal role as advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and as organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech) should have assured his place in American social and political history.
But Rustin has long been denied his proper place—largely because he was an openly gay man.