Known for movies

Short Info

DiedAugust 24, 1987, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
FactBiography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 752-754. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.

Bayard Rustin was an American civil rights leader, activist, and organizer. He was born on March 17, 1912, in West Chester, Pennsylvania, to Florence Rustin and Archie Hopkins. His father was a carpenter and his mother was a domestic worker. He had two younger brothers, Walter and Benjamin. He was educated at the local Quaker school, Westtown School. He was an excellent student and athlete, and he excelled in track and field. After graduation, he attended Wilberforce University in Ohio for one year before transferring to Cheyney State Teachers College (now Cheyney University) in Pennsylvania. He graduated with a degree in economics in 1935.

Rustin became interested in civil rights while in college. He joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Communist Party USA. He also became a Quaker. In 1936, he moved to New York City to work for the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), an interfaith pacifist organization. He traveled to Europe and the Soviet Union, where he observed firsthand the rise of Nazism and Stalinism. He also visited India, where he met Mahatma Gandhi and was deeply influenced by his philosophy of nonviolent resistance.

When he returned to the United States, Rustin joined the staff of A. Philip Randolph, a prominent African-American labor leader. In 1941, they organized the March on Washington Movement to pressure the federal government to ban racial discrimination in defense industries and the armed forces. The march was postponed due to the outbreak of World War II, but it was eventually held in 1963, with Rustin serving as one of the main organizers. The march was a success, and it helped pressure President John F. Kennedy to issue an executive order banning discrimination in defense contracts.

In the 1950s, Rustin was active in the civil rights movement, working closely with Martin Luther King Jr. He helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957. He also helped plan the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

In the 1960s, Rustin became increasingly critical of the Vietnam War and U.S. foreign policy. He spoke out against racism, poverty, and militarism. He was arrested several times for his activism. In 1968, he was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to three years in prison. He served two years of his sentence before being released on parole.

After his release from prison, Rustin continued to work for social justice. He helped organize several major civil rights marches, including the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968 and the March Against Racism in 1971. He also worked for gay rights and spoke out against homophobia. In 1987, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

Rustin died of a heart attack on August 24, 1987, at his home in New York City. He was 75 years old.

General Info

Full NameBayard Rustin
DiedAugust 24, 1987, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States
EducationCity College of New York, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, Wilberforce University


ParentsArchie Hopkins, Florence Rustin


AwardsPresidential Medal of Freedom

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1Twenty-five, thirty years ago, the barometer of human rights in the United States were black people. That is no longer true. The barometer for judging the character of people in regard to human rights is now those who consider themselves gay, homosexual, lesbian.
2When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.


1Posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 by President Barack Obama.
2Rustin organized the March on Washington, what was then the largest demonstration ever in Washington, D.C., in under two months.
3Fellow civil rights leader Julian Bond has often quoted Rustin as joking that "Martin Luther King couldn't organize vampires to go to a bloodbath," meaning that despite King's gifts as a leader and an orator, King needed Rustin's and others' help with the organizational aspects of the movement.
4Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 752-754. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
5The Bayard Rustin High School, in Rustin's hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania, and the Bayard Rustin High School for the Humanities (H.S. 440) in Manhattan are both named after Rustin.



P.O.V.TV Series documentary lyrics - 1 episode, 2003 performer - 1 episode, 2003


P.O.V.2003TV Series documentary archival materials provided courtesy of - 1 episode


Paul Robeson: Songs of Freedom2008Documentary
Eyes on the Prize1987TV Series documentaryHimself
Vietnam: A Television History1983TV Series documentaryHimself
The March1964Documentary shortHimself
Opening Day at the 1964-1965 World's Fair1964TV MovieHimself

Archive Footage

The Sixties2014TV Mini-Series documentaryHimself - Civil Rights Activist
Democracy Now!2013TV SeriesHimself
The March2013TV Movie documentaryHimself
Moyers & Company2013TV SeriesHimself
Great Performances2007TV SeriesHimself
P.O.V.2003TV Series documentaryHimself
Our Friend, Martin1999VideoHimself - on steps of Lincoln Memorial (uncredited)
Out of the Past1998DocumentaryHimself
The Speeches of Malcolm X1997Video documentaryHimself - Listens to Abernathy
George Wallace1997TV MovieHimself - Behind King (uncredited)
11-22-63: The Day the Nation Cried1989TV Movie documentaryHimself (unconfirmed, uncredited)
Malcolm X1972DocumentaryHimself

Source: IMDb, Wikipedia

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