Bayard Rustin: American Dreamer (The African American by Jerald Podair

By Jerald Podair

Bayard Rustin used to be a different 20th-century American radical voice. A gay, international warfare II draft resister, and ex-communist, Rustin made huge, immense contributions to the civil rights, socialist, exertions, peace, and homosexual rights events within the usa, regardless of being seen as an intruder through fellow activists. writer Jerold Podair additionally comprises excerpts from Rustin's writings, speeches, letters, and statements, permitting the reader to achieve firsthand interplay with essentially the most vital civil rights leaders?and probably the most vital radical leaders?in 20th-century American background.

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It reversed the usual dynamics of power by using the weight of the strong to impart strength to the weak. Practitioners of nonviolent direct action deliberately violated unjust laws and social practices in order to dramatize their evil effects to the broader public. Once men and women of goodwill understood the magnitude of these injustices, they would themselves act to end them. In the meantime, the nonviolent protesters would willingly accept the consequences of their transgressions. They would endure the harshest punishments with equanimity, in the spirit of love and forgiveness.

Rustin traveled the country, organizing local FOR chapters, speaking at churches and schools, and offering support to conscientious objectors. Wherever he went, he was an unforgettable presence. Tall, leanly muscular, impeccably attired, Rustin would make the case for peace in compelling, often inspiring, language. Sometimes he would sing, employing the musical talents cultivated in his youth and early days in New York. Spirituals were his forte. His eloquence and musicality often moved his audiences to tears.

Rustin’s willingness to accommodate other agendas in the service of a larger cause gave him a breadth and scope that more conventional radicals lacked. It was also making him a name. By 1943 it seemed that everyone on the American left knew Bayard Rustin. Rustin’s personal life was blossoming as well. In 1943 he met Davis Platt, a twenty-year-old white student, and began his first committed homosexual relationship. Platt enrolled at Columbia University to be closer to Rustin’s FOR workplace, and the two became lovers, to the dismay of Muste.

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