Cathy Young on Bayard Rustin, an Unsung Civil Rights Hero


Bayard Rustin
Library of Congress

When Bayard Rustin, the often-unsung hero of the civil rights movement, died in 1987, obituaries either evaded the fact that he was openly gay or danced around it. Today, such obfuscation looks both laughable and sad. By contrast, writes Cathy Young, media tributes to Rustin for the recent 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's March on Washington—in which Rustin played a key role—have often focused on his identity as a black civil rights leader who was also a gay man. Yet in an ironic twist, many of these commemorations have been just as evasive, if not outright dishonest, about another key aspect of Rustin's life: the fact that in his post-1963 career, he held many views that were anathema to the left, then and now.