Bayard Rustin

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Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin (/ˈbaɪərd/; March 17, 1912August 24, 1987) was an African American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania where his family was involved in civil rights work. In 1936, he moved to Harlem, New York City and earned a living as a nightclub and stage singer, and continued activism for civil rights.


  • When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.
    • The Mirage of Dignity on the Highways of Human 'progress': - the bystanders' perspective - , by Lukman Harees, p xv, 2012.
  • I think the movement contributed to this nation a sense of universal freedom. Precisely because women saw our movement in the sixties, stimulated them to want their rights. The fact that students saw the movement of the sixties created a student movement in this country. The fact that the people were against the war in Vietnam, saw us go into the street and win, made it possible for them to have the courage to go into the street and win, and the lesson that I would like to see from this is, that we must now find a way to deal with the problem of full employment, and as surely as we were able to bring about the Civil Rights Act, the voter rights act--the Voting Rights Act, I mean the education act, and the housing act, so is it possible for all of us now to combine our forces in a coalition, including Catholic, Protestant, Jew and labor and blacks and Puerto Ricans and Mexican-Americans and all other minorities, to bring about the one thing that will bring peace internally to the United States. And that is that any man who wants a job, or any woman who wants a job, shall not be left unemployed.
    • Eyes on the Prize interview, Interview with Bayard Rustin, conducted by Blackside, Inc. in 1979, for Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection. (1979)
  • We in America reject planning except for the private sector of the economy, so what we have is democratic socialization for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.
  • Thus social democracy is neither pro-capitalist nor, for the present, rigidly anti-capitalist. Indeed, social democracy (and in the United States, a roughly analogous coalition of labor, liberals, and minorities) has already greatly transformed capitalism. Social democracy adopts a flexible approach to institutional arrangements and social reforms; it has no unalterable blueprint to impose on society. Every social-democratic proposal is motivated and tested by its probable consequences for the democratic life of the community. Social democracy is more a method of social change than a definition of what society should look like.

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