Human Rights: The Central Issue of Our Time

Bayard_Rustin-2From the archives, a feature article by Bayard Rustin from the February 15, 1987 issue of Friends Journal. In August 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, with the following citation:

Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. An advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.

Readers can also learn more about Rustin in Gay, Black, and Quaker: History Catches Up with Bayard Rustin, by Stephen W. Angell and Leigh Eason in Religion Dispatches.

Bayard Rustin: Human Rights, the Central Issue of Our Time by FriendsJournal

Bayard Rustin

Biography from the 1987 issue: Bayard Rustin is president of the A . Philip Randolph Educational Fund. He has been active for over 50 years in civil rights and human rights causes, most notably as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, D .C. Bayard Rustin is a member of Fifteenth Street (N. Y.) Meeting.  

3 thoughts on “Human Rights: The Central Issue of Our Time

  1. Friends might well celebrate the inclusion of Rustin among those receiving Presidential Medals of Freedom; he deserved it. Have there been others?

    But we should note at least three omissions from the presidential citation before our hero, like King, gets too sanitized: 1) Rustin was an active organizer for the Communist Party in upstate New York in the 1930s, 2) he resisted the draft during World War II and served time in a federal prison for doing so, and 3) toward the end of his life, he lent support to LBJ’s Vietnam War. In short, he was a complex man who certainly doesn’t need to be white-washed.

    I can understand the current president omitting these details from Rustin’s career. It’s harder to understand how his fellow Friends could co so.

  2. For anyone reading this in the DC area: On Aug 25 at Friends Meeting of Washington there will be an event about Bayard Rustin. Sorry I don’t have more detail, but the FMW website is sure to.

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