I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin's Life in Letters
A collection of over 150 of his letters; his correspondents include the major progressives of his day and touchingly his correspondence with AFSC staff after his arrest. Bayard Rustin's eloquent, impassioned voice, his ability to chart the path "from protest to politics," is both timely and deeply informative. As the Occupy movement ushers America into a pivotal election year, and as politicians and citizens re-assess their goals and strategies, these letters provide direct access to the strategic thinking and tactical planning that led to the successes of one of America's most transformative and historic social movements.
1. War Is Wrong: 1942-1944 –
2. One Ought to Resist the Entire System: March-August, 1944 –
3. I Am a Traitor: August-December, 1944 –
4. Until Every Effort Is Made, I Am Less Than a Man: January-August, 1945 –
5. I Am Needed on the Outside: November 1945-June, 1946 –
6. A Small, Interracial, Disciplined Group ... to Test Jim Crow: July 1946-December, 1947 –
7. To Fight for the United States Army Is to Fight for Bigotry: 1948-1949 –
8. Let Us Resist with Our Whole Beings: 1950-1952 –
9. For Me Sex Must Be Sublimated: 1953-1955 –
10. This Is an Effort to Avoid War-Race War: 1956-1957 –
11. Crisis Is at Hand for Civil Rights-and Africa: 1958-1959 –
12. BayardWas Crushed: 1960-1962 –
13. An Enormous Success: 1963 –
14. A Very Central Figure in the Civil Rights Movement: 1964-1965 –
15. The Freedom Budget for All Americans: 1966-1967 –
16. A Fantastic Vacuum: 1968-1969 –
17. More Black Than Cleaver: 1970-1975 –
18. These People, Mr. President, Desperately Need Our Help: 1976-1979 –
19. InsteadofaMarch: 1980-1983 –
20. Bayard Rustin-Oh, What a Life!: 1984-1987 –
Notes -- Location of Letters -- Acknowledgments -- Index.
Bayard Rustin (March 17, 1912 - August 24, 1987) was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence, and gay rights.
In the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Rustin practiced nonviolence. He was a leading activist of the early 1947-1955 civil-rights movement, helping to initiate a 1947 Freedom Ride to challenge with civil disobedience racial segregation on interstate busing. He recognized Martin Luther King, Jr.'s leadership, and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen King's leadership; Rustin promoted the philosophy of nonviolence and the practices of nonviolent resistance, which he had observed while working with Gandhi's movement in India. Rustin became a leading strategist of the civil rights movement from 1955-1968. He was the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was headed by A. Philip Randolph, the leading African-American labor-union president and socialist. Rustin also influenced young activists, such as Tom Kahn and Stokely Carmichael, in organizations like the Congress on Racial Equality (
After the passage of the civil-rights legislation of 1964-1965, Rustin focused attention on the economic problems of working-class and unemployed African Americans, suggesting that the civil-rights movement had left its period of "protest" and had entered an era of "politics," in which the Black community had to ally with the labor movement. Rustin became the head of the
Rustin was a gay man who had been arrested for a homosexual act in 1953. Homosexuality was criminalized in parts of the United States until 2003 and stigmatized through the 1990s. Rustin's sexuality, or at least his embarrassingly public criminal charge, was criticized by some fellow pacifists and civil-rights leaders. Rustin was attacked as a "pervert" or "immoral influence" by political opponents from segregationists to Black power militants, and from the 1950s through the 1970s. In addition, his pre-1941 Communist Party affiliation was controversial. To avoid such attacks, Rustin served only rarely as a public spokesperson. He usually acted as an influential adviser to civil-rights leaders. In the 1970s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes.
In August 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.