“Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.” — President Barack Obama
*In 2013, our nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the “I Have a Dream” speech by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One year later, our nation witnesses public protests that highlight the lack of social equality and reveal how tensions of class and race are far from settled. The dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his beloved community continues to unfold.
In light of the public response to non-indictments in Ferguson, Staten Island and elsewhere, Cleis Press has just published a new ebook edition of “Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin,” with the timely message of nonviolent and peaceful protest. Jarred Weisfeld, President of Start Publishing, which owns Cleis Press, remarked, “As we read today’s headlines, Bayard Rustin’s strategies of nonviolent protest that he taught to Dr. King have never been more important. His ideology continues to work both for the short term and the long.”
In 1956, Rustin taught Martin Luther King Jr. strategies of nonviolence during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, thereby launching the civil rights movement. Widely acclaimed as a founding father of modern black protest, Rustin reached international notoriety in 1963 as the openly gay organizer of the March on Washington.
Walter Naegle, Rustin’s partner from 1977 until Rustin’s death in 1987, is available to discuss Rustin’s beliefs that helped to shape the early Civil Rights movement with his revolutionary and forward thinking essays and speeches dating back to the early 1940s. Naegle is executor and archivist of the Bayard Rustin Estate. In November 2013, when Bayard Rustin was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor, Naegle accepted the award on Rustin’s behalf. “Being black, being homosexual, being a political radical, that’s a combination that’s pretty volatile and it comes along like Halley’s Comet.” Naegle said, adding, “Bayard’s life was complex, but at the same time I think it makes it a lot more interesting.”
Rustin is best remembered as master strategist and tireless activist, and as the organizer of one of the largest non-violent protests ever held in the United States, the 1963 March on Washington. He helped shape Martin Luther King, Jr. into an international symbol of peace and nonviolence by bringing Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement. When Rustin arrived in Mobile, AL in 1956, Dr. King had not yet embraced the idea of nonviolent protests. Rustin’s roots in activism go back to his upbringing and his grandmother’s early social activities in the NAACP and her Quaker philosophy.
Rustin was also openly gay at a time when it was easier to live in the closet, further proof of his courage. Cleis Press Publisher Brenda Knight worked directly with former member of the U.S. House of Representatives Barney Frank, on his contribution, who offered this comment, “I knew Bayard Rustin and the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties would not have been possible without him. He guided Dr. King and, unbeknownst to many, talked Dr. King out of some forms of civil disobedience that might have been perceived differently. He was the key actor behind one of our country’s greatest evolutions and has never received full credit. I hope that changes with the publication of this new book.”
Long before the March on Washington and King’s ascendance to international prominence, Rustin put his life on the line to challenge racial segregation. His open homosexuality, however, remained a point of contention among black church leaders, with controversy sometimes embroiling even King himself.
Despite these achievements, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era, Rustin was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions. His courage did not wane. Today, these precepts of nonviolence that were employed during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, launched the birth of the Civil Rights Movement in 1955. Widely acclaimed as a founding father of modern black protest, Rustin reached his pinnacle of notoriety in 1963 as organizer of the March on Washington.
“Time on Two Crosses” showcases the extraordinary career of this black gay civil rights pioneer. Spanning five decades, the book combines classic texts from Bayard Rustin, ranging in topic from Gandhi’s impact on African Americans, white supremacists in Congress, the antiwar movement, and the assassination of Malcolm X, with never-before published selections on the call for gay rights, Louis Farrakhan, affirmative action, AIDS, and women’s rights. Also included are twenty-five photos from the Rustin estate.
Link to Table of Contents and Introduction from the new edition, with Barack Obama and Barney Frank contributions:
“Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin”
Edited by Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise
Foreword by Barack Obama
Afterword by Barney Frank
$19.95, Trade Paper