Bayard Rustin’s Influence in the Civil Rights Movement

Bayard Rustin’s Influence in the Civil Rights Movement.

Bayard Rustin’s Influence in the Civil Rights Movement

  1. Introduction

One of the most important civil rights figures in the 20th century is Bayard Rustin who espoused radical pacifism and the ideal of civil rights. Born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Rustin’s upbringing was also based on pacifism as his grandparents were proponents of pacifism in an era characterized by violent demonstrations for equality. Rustin has been described as a political gadfly who served as a catalyst behind different stages of the civil rights movements as it evolved from unilateral acts of resistance to a full-fledged political movement. Not only was Rustin influential in the civil rights movement, he was a visible gay rights activist. Throughout his activism, Rustin influenced social and political changes in the U.S.

  1. Rustin’s first activism
    1. Political activism in high school- revolt against the Nigger Heaven
    2. A revolt with his teammates against Jim Crow accommodations
    3. Revolt beyond the school- defiance against Jim Crow’s practices in movie houses, restaurants, YMCA, and department stores
    4. Effects of his activism- he was able to influence large groups of people in revolts
  2. The March on Washington Movement (MOWM)
    1. Rustin’s presence at MOWM- he was the youth leader at MOWM
    2. The fight for desegregation of the armed forces
    3. The establishment of the fair employment practices committee
  • The fellowship of reconciliation (FOR)
    1. Joining the pacifist movement
    2. The formation of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
    3. The praxis on non-violent protests against Jim Crow practices
    4. The freedom rides against segregation in public transport
  1. Espousing non-violent protests
    1. Rustin’s travel to India to meet leaders of the non-violent Gandhian movement
    2. The influence on Martin Luther King in adoption non-violent protests (Alison and Goethals, 2012).
    3. The Montgomery boycott
    4. The 1963 march on Washington and its effects on the civil rights movement- it was the biggest and diverse demonstration in human rights history (Steinberg, 1997).
  2. Rustin’s gay activism
    1. The call for social change in gay rights- the new niggers are gay speech
    2. Progress made in gay activism and gay rights
  3. Analysis of his successes
    1. The legacy left by Bayard Rustin
    2. His influence in social and political change
    3. The influence in human rights and gay rights
  • Conclusion

Bayard Rustin was an influential figure in the civil rights activism era of the 20th century and his influence can be seen in the outcomes of civil rights activism during this era. Rustin’s success was despite the fact that he was an openly gay man at a time when society was yet to fully embrace gays. Despite the resistance he received, Rustin was able to bring pacifism into civil rights movement and had a substantial influence on other notable figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King. As a valued strategist, Rustin devoted his life to the promotion of human rights and the principle of equality.



Steinberg, S. (1997). Bayard Rustin and the rise and decline of the black protest movement. New Politics, 6(3).

Allison, S., and Goethals, G. (2012). Bayard Rustin: Peaceful advocate of human rights. Retrieved on November 9, 2016 from       bayard-rustin-peaceful-advocate-of-human-rights/

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Bayard Rustin’s Influence in the Civil Rights Movement

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