Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) was a key figure in the civil rights movement, and its only openly gay leader. Born in Pennsylvania to an unmarried mother, he was raised by his Quaker grandparents. After beginning his political career as a communist and conscientious objector, Rustin participated in the first Freedom Rides, and spent time on a chain gang and in prison for his beliefs. Through his work as a political adviser to Martin Luther King in the 1950s he defined the era's protest agenda, and introduced nonviolent direct action as one of its founding principles. He helped to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference - only to later be forced to resign because of rumours around his relationship with Martin Luther King. Undeterred, Rustin organised the 1963 March on Washington, a turning point in the history of American protest. In later life he focused on global humanitarian work, from free elections to aid for refugees.

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