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Feb 12, 2019

Bayard Rustin: Honoring a gay man that history forgot

This month is Black History Month. In honor of this important time of year, Equality NC is spotlighting different black LGBTQ icons whose tireless efforts have helped push our movement forward.

Bayard Rustin may be a name that the LGBTQ community became more familiar with in recent years, but he certainly wasn’t visible in the public eye during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. He was, however, instrumental to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with Rustin not only helping organize The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, but serving as an influential behind-the-scenes adviser to the late civil rights icon. He was also arrested in Chapel Hill during the first Freedom Ride across the southern states, a two-week “journey of reconciliation” through the upper South meant to test the effectiveness of a 1946 SCOTUS ruling banning segregation within interstate bus travel.

Rustin’s influence on these movements was more muted, largely due to his gay identity and later his advocacy for gay rights. But like many late LGBTQ leaders, Rustin has begun to receive accolades for his work in the years after his death.

“We need in every bay and community a group of angelic troublemakers.” --Bayard Rustin

History is full of people like Bayard Rustin who worked behind the scenes without receiving proper credit or accolades for pushing our country forward. Together, let us celebrate and lift up their contributions to our movement today.

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