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Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

4.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226142692
ISBN-10: 0226142698
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Lost Prophet is one of the saddest stories you will ever read. Rustin was a charismatic leader, a lifelong pacifist, an imprisoned conscientious objector during World War II, and a leading American teacher of Gandhian nonviolence . . . But Rustin was also gay, decades before the Supreme Court legitimated private sexual activity, and that cost him the backing of some radicals, black as well as white, for whom he had been an eloquent and courageous leader for nearly 40 years. . . . D'Emilio succeeds in detailing a highly useful life and--a prime task of biography--in redeeming a nearly forgotten figure and assigning him a proper role in an era that becomes more beclouded and mythologized with every passing year."

(Tom Wicker Los Angeles Times)

"A sympathetic, probing biography that brings homosexuality to the fore as a factor in the black activist's seminal but largely forgotten role in the civil rights movement. An eye-opening look at the personal ordeal underlying a revolutionary quest."

(Kirkus Reviews)

"Drawing on interviews with Rustin's colleagues, friends, and lovers, D'Emilio explores all facets of the activist's life, from his Quaker upbringing and early imprisonment for draft dodging to his close but tenuous relationship with Martin Luther King Jr."

(Publishers Weekly)

"Bayard Rustin became famous for working behind the scenes. The tactics of public protest that became familiar in the 1960s marches on Washington, Freedom Rides, sit-ins, passive resistance, civil disobedience were pioneered and refined by Rustin two decades earlier. Indeed, through his decisive influence on Martin Luther King Jr., Rustin created the model for the social movements of post-World War II America--civil rights, antiwar, gay liberation, feminist."

(Michael Anderson New York Times Book Review)

"A lively, detailed, immensely readable account of this key figure of the 20th century, including information about his sexual life and relationships."
(Ian Young Torso)

"D'Emilio's work contributes greatly to the literature of Bayard Rustin and the civil rights movement. . . . Thanks to D'Emilio, not only have we found a 'lost prophet,' but we have a much better understanding of why he was lost in the first place."
(Steve Estes Journal of the History of Sexuality)

"D'Emilio's biography is an important book about an important man, well researched, with particularly perceptive insights into gay culture in America as well as providing a solid account of the history of the peace movement and the civil rights struggle."
(Gerald Early New York Review of Books)

About the Author

John D’Emilio is professor of history and of gender and women's studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Policy director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, he is coauthor of Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, published by the University of Chicago Press, and author of The World Turned: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and Culture.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226142698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226142692
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #333,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By I. Sondel VINE VOICE on December 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
An exhaustive biography of the often overlooked archtect of the civil rights movement. An espouser of Gandhian non-violence and a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rustin was a man of fierce convictions, openly gay in a time when to be so jeopardized even his basic freedoms.
D'Emilio records Rustin's life warts and all. He documents his numerous arrests for acts of civil disobedience, for being a conscientious objector, as well as on a morals charge.
However, it is the triumphs that are most exhilerating to read about. The March on Washington, as one would expect, is a highlight. Finally, and definitively, the credit for coordinating this event is attributed to Rustin. In the face of extreme opposition from the likes of Strom Thurmond and J. Edgar Hoover, Rustin staged an event of epic porportion and historic significance.
Rustin was one of the great unsung heroes of the last century. John D'Emilio's biography, with a cast of characters that reads like a who's who of the twentieth century, is a tribute to Rustin and a model of its kind.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rustin's story is a curious one -- how is it that a militant Quaker pacifist, a man who chose to go to prison during World War II, is found defending Lyndon Johnson's Presidency in 1968? The answer lies in the various tragedies of the '60's: the vestiges of the Cold War that shaped American policies; Johnson's ability to commit to progressive domestic policies but inability to shake free of the worst of the Cold War mentality; the triumphs and the tragic splintering of the American Civil Rights movement; and perhaps in Rustin's personal tragedy, that of a gay, black pacifist whose biggest political obstacle was not found in the radicalism of his ideas but in his attempt to live his personal life as a gay man.

D'Emilo appears to capture all those elements of Rustin, and suggests both how Rustin shaped those political movements in which he involved himself and how they served to shape him.

My students generally all are familiar with Dr. King's speech at the 1963 March on Washington. With few exceptions, however, they have never heard of the two men who planned the March: labor leader A.P. Randolph and Rustin. D'Emilo's book serves to remind us of just how much an injustice it is that Rustin's role in the Civil Rights movement has been so much forgotten.
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Format: Paperback
"Visionary." "Inspirational." "Controversial." "Black." "Gay." These are some of the many words used as description for Bayard Rustin in Lost Prophet: the Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D'Emilio. He was a nonviolent civil rights activist who firmly believed in the effectiveness of this approach and, despite all of the challenges he faced, was impervious to setbacks - though he had many of them. The author portrays Rustin as one of the unsung heroes of the twentieth century and as an instrumental player in promoting racial equality who is often forgotten and lost in the shuffle of history. This biography is a testament to all that he accomplished; trying in earnest to ensure that his name and impact is no longer overlooked.

Long before the civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1960's, Rustin was deeply involved in promoting equality through the means of non-violence. Raised a Quaker the ideals of pacifism were well embedded in his philosophies that it was only after joining forces with other pacifists, like A.J. Muste, that they together formed several successful organizations. Though his participation in these associations, like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), was impressive it was his personal efforts that were most notable. In the 1942 while on a bus he decided to move to the white section; a decision that resulted in violence he refused to react to and imprisonment.

As an African-American, a homosexual, a former communist, conscientious objector, and pacifist the challenges he faced were many. Not only was he battling the stigmas of his race, he was also battling the stigma of his sexual orientation at a time when recognition of homosexuality was minimal.
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Format: Hardcover
A extraordinary account of an extraordinary life. "Lost Prophet" is an engrossing account of how Bayard Rustin became a master strategist for the civil rights movement, despite significant homophobia and a smear campaign by government agencies.
For anyone seeking to making a difference, this inspirational biography by John D'emilio is a "must-read." It will renew your commitment to justice and equality for all, regardless of the obstacles.
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This amazing book has led me to break a number of my self-imposed rules, including reading the reviews of others before submitting my own. And, having done so, I believe I have nothing substantive to add to the overwhelmingly positive and insightful reflections of the previous reviewers. This book was published long before I became a member of the Amazon Vine program. Hence I did not encounter it in that context, but rather as a result of an extraordinarily powerful post by Kittredge Cherry in her "Jesus in Love" blog dated August 24th 2012. Based on her post I rushed to order the book, and given the time-frame (this is being written on September 1, 2012) it can be seen that I am reviewing before having completed this extraordinary but lengthy biography.

Within the first eighty pages, however, I was overwhelmed with awareness that this book, and the convictions and life of Bayard Rustin as John D'Emilio depicts them, bear a powerful message for this fateful and pivotal year in American Politics. The same issues of social injustice that Rustin and his contemporaries confronted during WWII and its aftermath are still with us. Despite the "great strides" that have led to the election of a (now very embattled) African American president and the open discussion of the extension of basic human rights to gays, the penchant for violence as a solution to social and international problems does not seem to be diminished. I believe it is vitally important to revisit the Gandhian ethos of non-violent resistance to injustice and oppression at all levels that Rustin so eloquently and courageously championed.
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