When researching the Civil Rights Movement for my novel, “The Last Good Republican,” I became fascinated with one particular figure from that turbulent era who is often overlooked.
Bayard Rustin, besides being a Black American, was also gay and a socialist during a period when any of those three traits could easily marginalize one to the sidelines of society.
Instead, this complex figure rose to the summit of 20th century America’s struggle for full rights. He grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and knew at an early age of his same-sex attraction.
Fortunately, his family was supportive, and his Quaker grandmother (who raised him) had commented that if he liked spending time with other boys “I suppose that’s what you need to do.” By his early adult years, his time at college had exposed him to leftist political ideas, which guided him in the decades to follow, synthesizing with his pacifist Quaker upbringing into a global worldview of humanitarianism and egalitarianism.