Synopses & Reviews
Bayard Rustin is one of the most important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America's consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual. Acclaimed historian John D'Emilio tells the full and remarkable story of Rustin's intertwined lives: his pioneering and public person and his oblique and stigmatized private self.
It was in the tumultuous 1930s that Bayard Rustin came of age, getting his first lessons in politics through the Communist Party and the unrest of the Great Depression. A Quaker and a radical pacifist, he went to prison for refusing to serve in World War II, only to suffer a sexual scandal. His mentor, the great pacifist A. J. Muste, wrote to him, "You were capable of making the 'mistake' of thinking that you could be the leader in a revolution...at the same time that you were a weakling in an extreme degree and engaged in practices for which there was no justification."
Freed from prison after the war, Rustin threw himself into the early campaigns of the civil rights and anti-nuclear movements until an arrest for sodomy nearly destroyed his career. Many close colleagues and friends abandoned him. For years after, Rustin assumed a less public role even though his influence was everywhere. Rustin mentored a young and inexperienced Martin LutherKing in the use of nonviolence. He planned strategy for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference until Congressman Adam Clayton Powell threatened to spread a rumor that King and Rustin were lovers. Not until Rustin's crowning achievement as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington would he finally emerge from the shadows that homophobia cast over his career. Rustin remained until his death in 1987 committed to the causes of world peace, racial equality, and economic justice.
Based on more than a decade of archival research and interviews with dozens of surviving friends and colleagues of Rustin's, "Lost Prophet" is a triumph. Rustin emerges as a hero of the black freedom struggle and a singularly important figure in the lost gay history of the mid-twentieth century. John D'Emilio's compelling narrative rescues a forgotten figure and brings alive a time of great hope and great tragedy in the not-so-distant past.
"Bayard Rustin became famous for working behind the scenes. The tactics of public protest that became familiar in the 1960s marches on Washington, Freedom Rides, sit-ins, passive resistance, civil disobedience were pioneered and refined by Rustin two decades earlier. Indeed, through his decisive influence on Martin Luther King Jr., Rustin created the model for the social movements of post-World War II America--civil rights, antiwar, gay liberation, feminist."
is one of the saddest stories you will ever read. Rustin was a charismatic leader, a lifelong pacifist, an imprisoned conscientious objector during World War II, and a leading American teacher of Gandhian nonviolence . . . But Rustin was also gay, decades before the Supreme Court legitimated private sexual activity, and that cost him the backing of some radicals, black as well as white, for whom he had been an eloquent and courageous leader for nearly 40 years. . . . D'Emilio succeeds in detailing a highly useful life and--a prime task of biography--in redeeming a nearly forgotten figure and assigning him a proper role in an era that becomes more beclouded and mythologized with every passing year."
"A sympathetic, probing biography that brings homosexuality to the fore as a factor in the black activist's seminal but largely forgotten role in the civil rights movement. An eye-opening look at the personal ordeal underlying a revolutionary quest."
"Drawing on interviews with Rustin's colleagues, friends, and lovers, D'Emilio explores all facets of the activist's life, from his Quaker upbringing and early imprisonment for draft dodging to his close but tenuous relationship with Martin Luther King Jr."
"A lively, detailed, immensely readable account of this key figure of the 20th century, including information about his sexual life and relationships."
"D'Emilio's work contributes greatly to the literature of Bayard Rustin and the civil rights movement. . . . Thanks to D'Emilio, not only have we found a 'lost prophet,' but we have a much better understanding of why he was lost in the first place."
"D'Emilio's biography is an important book about an important man, well researched, with particularly perceptive insights into gay culture in America as well as providing a solid account of the history of the peace movement and the civil rights struggle."
One of the most important figures of the American civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin taught Martin Luther King Jr. the methods of Gandhi, spearheaded the 1963 March on Washington, and helped bring the struggle of African Americans to the forefront of a nation's consciousness. But despite his incontrovertibly integral role in the movement, the openly gay Rustin is not the household name that many of his activist contemporaries are. In exploring history's Lost Prophet
, acclaimed historian John D'Emilio explains why Rustin's influence was minimized by his peers and why his brilliant strategies were not followed, or were followed by those he never meant to help.
About the Author
John Dand#8217;Emilio is professor of history and of gender and women's studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Policy director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, he is coauthor of Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, published by the University of Chicago Press, and author of The World Turned: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and Culture.
Table of Contents
1. "Any Road Will Take You There," 1912-1934
2. "A Young Radical," 1934-1941
3. "A Way of Life," 1941-1943
4. "An Extremely Capable Agitator," 1944
5. "Hard and Bitter Experience," 1944-1946
6. "The Gadfly Which Has Stirred Men into Action," 1946-1947
7. "Mad Enough to Do Something Desperate," 1947-1948
8. "An Iron Lung of Militarism," 1948-1952
9. "Bayard's Trouble," 1952-1953
10. "I Can Again Be Useful," 1953-1955
11. "No Force on Earth Can Stop This Movement," 1955-1957
12. "More Going On Than Most People Would Gather," 1957-1959
13. "An Employee of Others," 1959-1960
14. "Ours Is Not a World-Shaking Project," 1960-1962
15. "One of the Great Days in American History," 1963
16. "On the Threshold of a New Political Movement," 1963-1964
17. "From Protest to Politics," 1964-1965
18. "In the Shadow of War," 1965-1967
19. "A Strategist Without a Movement," 1966-1968
20. "Freedom Is Never a Final Act," 1969-1987