@ Michael Bedwell Thank you so much for giving us even more history of Bayard Rustin. I am always excited to hear more about this exciting historical figure. I understand Mr. Rustin's reluctance to be an "out" gay person but I also have to put his decision within a historical contextual framework so he still gets much props....smile.
Thank you for sharing your very personal perspective on this topic. Please keep reading and sharing!
@ jec53 Thank you and please check out the films and documentary I would be curious to see what you think...smile. Please keep reading and sharing!
@ DollarMargueritaIowan Thank you for reading and I am glad you enjoy the content. Do I assume from your name that you are from or had a stint in Iowa? I was there for 3 years....smile. Please keep reading and sharing!
Great article. Thanks for opening my eyes. I'll be checking out the movies.
Please sign the Whitehouse petition to make the DOJ pay for Aaron Swartz death.
Rustin is one of my own beloved heroes, and I was honored last fall to finally meet and talk with his surviving partner, Walter Naegle, at the dedication of a memorial plaque to Rustin and 17 others as a part of Chicago's marvelous, unprecedented "outdoor museum" of LGBT history, the Legacy Walk. He still lives in their New York apartment once bugged by the FBI. However, though it is true that because Rustin was gay he was shamelessly repeatedly shoved back into the shadows of the black civil rights movement to which he contributed so much, the words "he was an out gay man who proudly walked in his own truth" no doubt read to many as if he was "out" in the same way, e.g., Ellen is today, or even gay movement pioneer Frank Kameny in 1965 when he and others first picketed the White House. It was far less that he was treated the way he was by those such as Roy Wilkins, then executive secretary of the NAACP, and late black Cong. Adam Clayton Powell [who blackmailed King into disassociating with Rustin for a time by threatening to tell the press King and Rustin were lovers which they weren’t, of course] because he came out TO them as much as it was they heard he was gay through gossip generally, and the newspaper accounts of Rustin's arrest on a sex charge in 1953. Up until the last couple of years of his life, he was like the type of gay man that still exists in 2013, who, even though those around them know they're gay, and they would never deny it if asked, would never INITIATE conversation about or make comments around nongays such as, "my lover Walter and I went to a gay bar last night." As Naegle, 38 years younger than Rustin, has said: "Bayard came from a generation that really didn't talk about such things.”
Gay historian John D’Emilio, whose 2003 biography, "Lost Prophet, The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin,” first brought Rustin’s full story to the world, wrote: "By the 1980s, Naegle was pushing Rustin to take the next step. There were still relatively few homosexuals of stature who had come out…. He was wanted as a role model, a spokesperson, by a movement that claimed allegiance to ideals of justice and equality to which Rustin had devoted his life. As invitations from gay organizations arrived in the mail, Naegle ‘encouraged him to go speak at these things. I think if I hadn’t been working in the office at the time, when these invitations came in, he probably wouldn’t have done them….’ Gay black men especially sought him out.” So in 1985, Rustin finally had his official “public” coming out through some speaking and writing about homophobia, both historically and contemporaneously such as in relation to the "Bowers v. Hardwick" Supreme Court decision and reactions to AIDS, and lobbying for New York City's gay rights bill. Still in 1986 he wrote: "I did not 'come out of the closet' voluntarily—circumstances forced me out. While I have no problem with being publicly identified as homosexual, it would be dishonest of me to present myself as one who was in the forefront of the struggle for gay rights. The credit for that belongs to others. While I support full equality, under the law, for homosexuals, I fundamentally consider sexual orientation to be a private matter.” And, sadly, he died the next year.
This contradiction is one of the things Naegle and I discussed. Nevertheless, I understand why a black man, born in 1912 and repeatedly demeaned and ostracized by others in both the peace and civil rights movements which meant so much to him, fired from one because of his arrest, driven for a time from the other because of Powell’s blackmail, publicly denounced by Sen. Strom Thurmond as a "Communist, draft-dodger, and homosexual," carefully walked the path he did. That takes NOTHING from his courage in the face of beatings, in federal prison as a pacifist, and on a chain gang for challenging bus segregation 8 years before Rosa Parks did, or all the other things he uniquely contributed to the world. I believe he was a great, great man to whom statues should be built, and his story told in every public school history book—including that he was gay—which the Pennsylvania high school NAMED for him still refuses to address. But he was a lily that does not need gilding.
Great to see a regular column on these critical subject matters.
@Michelle Laing thank you so much for reading and your support....: )
Great Article! Your authentic perpesctive offers much insight. Thank you so much for sharing this, it was very educational.
A wonderfully informative article! I am excited that this gives an opportunity to regular folks to have their voices heard on a historically restricted medium.
@Gabby Wow you have paralleled the life of Mr. Rustin. But you have had significant contributions of your own to our history. I am very encouraged by your story. I would like to speak to you about maybe participating in a project I have coming up regarding being gay in the south. Thank you for reading and sharing your very inspiring story!
@Latrese Williams You are so right. When you look at a man who was willing to live his life as a openly gay man during the civil rights movement it makes you wonder why we still have folks leading the DL life today. Thank you for reading and sharing your views on this topic Diva...smile
Little does one know where the road of life will lead them. As a black Gay man, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I was on a similar road that paralleled the road on which Bayard Rustin traveled. In 1956, at age 15, I caused a event that changed the course of events in the small town where I grew up, and miraculously, six weather-beaten Shacks with Pot belly Stoves were turned into a palatial new school for black students just two years after "Brown v. the Board of Education, 1954." From that day forward, new schools for blacks and whites sprang up all over Georgia. Six year later, I graduated head of my class as I watched from afar the first blacks to integrate the University of Georgia. I pushed on to C.U.N.Y. after getting beat down during sit-in demonstrations at southern Lunch Counters, and became a student of the renowned Dr. John Hope Franklin at Brooklyn College in 1962. Like Mr. Rustin, I was a Civil Rights activist as well as a Gay Rights activist. In 1969, I was a participant in the Stonewall Inn raid where the Gay Liberation in New York found its wings and took off in week long protests and riots. Time Magazine assessed the Stonewall protest to be one of the Ten most influential protest of the 20th Century http://www.amazon.com/dp/1463592639
Bayard was a true visionary that was courageous on so many levels. It is a shame that some Black men are still afraid to live the life that Bayard was brave enough to live decades ago.
@Brian, your savior Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.
@DLP Thank you for reading and sharing. You seem to be very passionate and well versed on political issues.
@Egregore You bring up a valid point that I used to frequently discuss with students in class in how our demeanor changes when we think we can communicate in anonymity. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.
@Obama Is George W. Bush Thank you for reading and you seem to have some definite opinions on politics.
@Mike Austin Thank you for reading but not sure about your reference.
@Concerned Citizen You are correct considering the President's Inaugural speech where he mentioned equality for gay Americans it is good that we see there has always been a very influential gay contribution to our history by people like Mr. Rustin. Thank you for reading and sharing on this topic!
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