Black History Month Spotlight: Bayard Rustin


In honor of Black History Month we’re spotlighting Bayard Rustin, a Civil Rights Leader and LGBTQ+ pioneer who is the namesake of the school that hosts so many Gotham activities. 

Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence, and gay rights. He is best known for his work as adviser to Martin Luther King Jr.

Rustin taught King about Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent resistance and advised him on the tactics of civil disobedience. He assisted King with the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956. Most famously, Rustin was a key figure in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which King delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963.

Rustin also influenced young activists, such as Tom Kahn and Stokely Carmichael, in organizations like the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Rustin was a gay man who had been arrested for a homosexual act in 1953. Rustin was attacked as a “pervert” or “immoral influence” by political opponents from segregationists to Black power militants, and from the 1950s through the 1970s. To avoid such attacks, Rustin served only rarely as a public spokesperson. He usually acted as an influential adviser to civil-rights leaders. 

Later in life, as the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement gained momentum, Rustin supported the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. In the 1980s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes, and testified in support of of New York State’s Gay Rights Bill in 1986.

On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

It gives our League great pride to be associated with such a notable and visionary leader and a proud member of our Community!

Biography and recap courtesy of Amy Santiago and the Gotham Volleyball Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.

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