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By Jerald Podair

Bayard Rustin used to be a special 20th-century American radical voice. A gay, global warfare II draft resister, and ex-communist, Rustin made huge, immense contributions to the civil rights, socialist, hard work, peace, and homosexual rights pursuits within the usa, regardless of being seen as an interloper through fellow activists. writer Jerold Podair additionally contains excerpts from Rustin's writings, speeches, letters, and statements, permitting the reader to realize firsthand interplay with some of the most vital civil rights leaders?and probably the most vital radical leaders?in 20th-century American background.

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Additional resources for Bayard Rustin: American Dreamer (The African American History Series)

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Rustin spent much of his career swimming against its strong cultural tide. Although he often seemed to occupy a position outside the national mainstream on economic issues, Rustin’s understanding of the inequities of class in American society enabled him to influence that mainstream even as an outsider. One need not be a socialist or communist to believe in the efficacy of government action on behalf of the disadvantaged, and Rustin eventually became a powerful advocate for “big government” liberalism, propelling it toward his dream of economic security for every American.

Rustin spent the rest of the 1940s and the early 1950s immersed in the anticolonialist and world peace movements. He traveled to India in the wake of the death of Mahatma Gandhi, who had been assassinated in January 1948, to participate in a conference on pacifism and nonviolent direct action that the Indian leader had planned. The conference was canceled, but Rustin nonetheless made good use of his time there. In January and February 1949 he met with leaders of what had been the most successful nonviolent political movement in world history, including Gandhi’s colleague and successor Jawaharlal Nehru.

In the late 1930s, Adam Clayton Powell, a local minister and future congressman, organized a “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” boycott of discriminatory Harlem retailers, in which Rustin played an active role. The campaign’s successful use of economic pressure to achieve its goals—virtually all Harlem businesses adopted integrated hiring practices—made a pro- 18 Chapter One found impression on Rustin. He saw firsthand the power of mass protest to influence white institutions and effectuate racial change.

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