Bayard Rustin

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Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin (left) with Logan Kearse


Bayard Rustin

Match-making for MLK

Ella J. Baker and her fellow African-American civil-rights activist Bayard Rustin introduced secret Communist Party USA member Stanley Levison to to Martin Luther King, Jr. A special relationship developed; from the late 1950s until King's death, in 1968, it was without a doubt King's closest friendship with a white person. In December of 1956 and January of 1957 Levison served as Rustin's primary sounding board as Rustin drew up the founding-agenda documents for what came to be called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference[1].

Like Rustin, Levison, and Baker, King and a network of his southern African-American ministerial colleagues hoped that the SCLC could leverage the success of the Montgomery bus boycott into a South-wide attack on segregation and racial discrimination.

Socialist Party influence on MLK

According to Boston Democratic Socialists of America publication Yankee Radical, September/October 2010 page 3, the Socialist Party USA played a major role in organizing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous 1963 March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom. According to Boston DSA several Socialist Party members played key roles in organizing the march, including A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Tom Kahn, Rachelle Horowitz and Norm Hill. King himself was in the Socialist Party in Boston during his student days in the early 1950s, according then Socialist Party member, now DSAer Bogdan Denitch.[2]

If anything, one aspect of the 1963 rally, deliberately down-played at the time for fear of red-baiting, was the influence of members of the Socialist Party, DSA’s major predecessor organization, in both organizing the event and its politics. This began with A. Philip Randolph, who issued the call for the March and MC’d it, his longtime lieutenant Bayard Rustin, and his key assistants who ran the March organizing office in NY—Tom Kahn, Rachelle Horowitz, Norm Hill and others, SPers all. (According to Honorary DSA Chair Bogdan Denitch, who was in a position to know, Martin Luther King himself was briefly in the Socialist Party in the early 1950s while attending Boston University.)

March on Washington - key four

According to Democratic Left, Winter 2012, page 10, four democratic socialists organized the 1963 March on Washington – A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Jr., and UAW president Walter Reuther.[3]

In Friendship

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Taliba O Njeri March 1, 2010 ·

In 1956 Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, and Stanley Levison established In Friendship, an organization dedicated to raising money to support the struggle in the South. She moved to Atlanta, Georgia, the following year to organize Martin Luther King, Jr.'s newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and to run the Crusade for Citizenship, a voter registration campaign. Baker stayed at SCLC for two years, but she never accepted its policy of favoring strong central leadership over local, grassroots politics.

Presidential Medal of Freedom

In November 20113, Bayard Rustin was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.[4]

References