Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

African Americans in the LGBT Community

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Bayard Rustin (1912–1987) (Wikimedia Commons)

Bayard Rustin (1912–1987) was a major figure behind the Civil Rights Movement. Rustin once wrote that "The principal factors which influenced my life are 1) nonviolent tactics; 2) constitutional means; 3) democratic procedures; 4) respect for human personality; 5) a belief that all people are one." Rustin espoused these principles during a long, illustrious career of advocating for labor rights and racial equality. He collaborated with A. Philip Randolph as early as 1941 in the March on Washington Movement, which pressed the U.S. government to end segregation in the armed forces and also enable fair working conditions for African Americans; and again in 1963 when the two helped to organize the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin is also credited with introducing Ghandian non-violent resistance to Martin Luther King Jr. Because of his sexuality and early ties to the Communist Party, Rustin was not allowed to assume a more prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement. Later in his life, Rustin publicly spoke out on gay rights and worked on behalf of the New York State's Gay Rights Bill in 1986. Several biographies of Rustin have appeared since his death and have revived the central role he played during the Civil Rights Movement. In 2013, Rustin was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

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