Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist
by Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle, and Michael G. Long (Quaker Press 2014)
We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers. – Bayard Rustin
To many, the Civil Rights Movement brings to mind protests, marches, boycotts, and freedom rides. They often think of people like Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. They seldom think of Bayard Rustin.
Raised by his Quaker grandmother to believe in the value of every human being, Bayard made trouble where ever he saw injustice. As a teenager, he was arrested for sitting in the whites only section of a theater. More arrests followed, for protesting against segregation, discrimination, and war. His belief in nonviolent action as a means for social change gave him a guiding vision for the Civil Rights Movement, which he used to mentor the young Martin Luther King, Jr. When A. Philip Randolph needed the best organizer on the planet, he turned to Bayard Rustin to bring 250,000 people to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Illustrated with over sixty photos, this book is the product of a unique collaboration between three authors: Bayard’s partner of ten years, a professor of religious studies, and a children’s book author. Though he is largely ignored in history books, Bayard’s ideas and actions will inspire today’s young (and not-so-young) readers to be angelic troublemakers.
Walter Naegle was Bayard Rustin's partner for a decade. When Rustin died in 1987, Walter was instrumental in establishing The Bayard Rustin Fund, a private foundation that promotes Rustin's values and works to heighten awareness of his accomplishments.
Michael G. Long is an associate professor of religious studies and peace and conflict studies at Elizabethtown College. He is the author or editor of several books on civil rights, religion and politics, and peacemaking in mid-century America.