As Julian Bond explains in the foreword, “Bayard Rustin was one of the
most influential civil and human rights advocates in U.S. history.” Yet,
as with so many other key people in history, most students don’t
recognize his name, except possibly with reference to the 1963 March on
Washington. Although Rustin was the logistical genius behind the
historic march, this was just one of his accomplishments over many
decades. Textbooks have left Rustin in obscurity, no doubt in part
because he was gay and for a period of time a socialist. But most likely
it is also because he does not fit into the traditional narrative. He
was one of the major proponents and practitioners of nonviolence before
Dr. King “brought nonviolence to the United States from Gandhi.” And
Rustin was active in civil and human rights struggles dating back to the
1940s—before textbooks begin the Civil Rights Movement in 1954
with Brown v. Board of Education. Most of all, he was an organizer, and
textbooks want heroes who make history alone. Much of the treasure trove
of letters by, to, and about Bayard Rustin would be engaging for high
school students, such as his correspondence while in jail, including
with the warden.
BAYARD RUSTIN POSTHUMOUSLY AWARDED THE 2013 PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM
Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, here is Bayard Rustin's life story told in his own words.
Bayard Rustin has been called the lost prophet of the civil rights movement. A master strategist and tireless activist, he is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the U.S. He brought Gandhi's protest techniques to the American civil rights movement and played a deeply influential role in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to mold him into an international symbol of nonviolence.
Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background. He was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.
Here we have Rustin in his own words in a collection of over 150 of his letters; his correspondents include the major progressives of his day for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker, and of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.
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.
Praise for "I Must Resist"
"A vital addition to the history of the civil rights movement by an exceptionally determined, vital and creative force who was invaluable to Martin Luther King Jr and A. Philip Randolph among many others."Nat Hentoff
"The first entry in that wonderful collection of letters is a missive to a Quaker group that Rustin penned in 1942. Rustin's grandmother was a Quaker, and the letter, titled 'War is Wrong' in Long's anthology, places Rustin firmly in the long tradition of American pacifism."Hector Tobar, "Los Angeles Times"
"Despite the fact that Rustin was pivotal to the civil rights movement, including organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, he is not nearly as well known as others in the movement. This collection of Rustin's letters aims to set straight the record on his enormous influence.""Booklist"
"A vital addition to the history of the civil rights movement by an exceptionally determined, vital and creative force who was invaluable to Martin Luther King Jr and A. Philip Randolph among many others." -- Nat Hentoff
"Rustin was a life-long agitator for justice. He changed America and the world for the better. This collection of his letters makes his life and his passions come vividly alive, and helps restore him to history, a century after his birth. I Must Resist makes for inspiring reading." -- John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin
"Bayard Rustin's courageously candid letters, most of which have never before been available to researchers, provide fascinating glimpses into the private life of one of history's most reticent public figures." -- Clayborne Carson, Founding Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University
"These letters -- poetic, incisive, passionate, and above all political in the broadest meaning of the word -- span almost four decades not only of Bayard Rustin’s life but of the emotional and spiritual life of America. There is hardly a social justice movement during this time in which Rustin was not involved from pacifism to ending poverty to battles for sexual freedom. Michael Long’s brilliant editing has created a compelling historical narrative and reading these letters is to be witness to the ever-evolving conscience that guides our country’s endangered, but surviving, commitment to freedom." -- Michael Bronksi, author of A Queer History of the United States
"Bayard Rustin was a committed but very complicated person. This marvelously annotated collection of letters explain the spirit, and evolution of the thoughts and actions of an often overlooked key figure in the 20th century civil and human rights movement." -- Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine Segal Professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania, and former Chair United States Commission on Civil Rights
"'I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters' provides fascinating insights into Bayard Rustin’s activist life. It includes hundreds of letters in Rustin's own words that reveal his tireless and brave efforts to promote American civil rights, as well as his personal tragedies. All aspects of Rustin’s experiences are captured in these letters, including his struggles with opponents dedicated to silencing him as an international symbol of nonviolent protests against racial injustice. This remarkable and deeply moving publication is a must-read." -- William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University
"We know what King thought about race, poverty and war. But what was his attitude toward gay people, and if he was alive today would he see the gay rights movement as another stage of the civil rights movement? . . . the debate over King’s stance toward gay rights has long divided his family and followers. That debate is poised to go public again because of the upcoming release of two potentially explosive books, one of which examines King’s close relationship with an openly gay civil rights leader, Bayard Rustin. . . . King would have been a champion of gay rights today because of his view of Christianity, says Michael Long, author of, 'I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters.'"-- CNN.com
"Despite the fact that Rustin was pivotal to the civil rights movement, including organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, he is not nearly as well known as others in the movement. This collection of Rustin’s letters aims to set straight the record on his enormous influence."--Booklist
"In commemoration of the centennial of his birth, a new book, 'I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life In Letters,' (edited by Michael G. Long) has just been published. It is a volume that is rich in Rustin’s wisdom and highly relevant to today’s debates over issues from gay rights to affirmative action." -- The Chronicle of Higher Education
"The letters in this book, which represent only a portion of Rustin’s prolific output, provide a detailed, vivid, and often surprising look into his life and mind. They reveal Rustin’s commitment to speaking the truth to power, which he encouraged in correspondence with students, citizens, and politicians, including every president from Truman to Reagan." -- Gay & Lesbian Review
"In 'I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters,' editor Michael G. Long assembles an impressive narrative of Rustin’s remarkable achievements, helping on this 100th anniversary of his birth to revive the complex legacy of the civil rights struggle’s hidden man." -- Baltimore City Paper
"Collected from over more than four decades, these letters are a reminder that one man can make a difference. . . . culled with care by editor Long, who also provides scene-setting historical and cultural annotations." -- Richard Labonte, The Rainbow Times
"This collection of letters sheds light on one of the great overlooked activists of the 20th century. Each letter is prefaced by a paragraph providing context, helpful for those who don’t have a deep knowledge of the events of that era. . . . His letters -- some 150 are collected here chronologically -- reveal an eloquent, persuasive activist, unafraid to challenge so-called authority figures when he encountered injustice."--Philadelphia Gay News