Lost Prophets: Bayard Rustin and the “First Freedom Rides”

Bayard_RustinWhen I think of some of the best, largely untold stories of activism, the first person I think of is Bayard Rustin, and his involvement with the American civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. Bayard was one of the most important thought-leaders of that time, and played a huge role in the movement’s success. However, Bayard’s story is kept out of history books, and has been excluded in favor of stories of other prominent figures such as Dr. King or Malcolm X. When I mention “Bayard Rustin” in conversation, most people reply, “Who was he?” Bayard’s story is important to me, as a young, black, gay man, for he exemplifies resilience, character, shrewdness and pride. For my activist history project, I chose to highlight Bayard Rustin.

I expected that my project would center on Bayard’s involvement with Dr. King and the March on Washington in 1963. However, during my research, I ended up learning about Bayard in 1947, earlier in his organizing career, and stumbled across two other lesser-known, great stories that are distantly related to Bayard’s early activism. I decided that my project would take a different direction, and tell these stories instead. Continue reading