The person who organized the 1963 March on Washington for Civil Rights was a black gay man! Two eminent scholars, Carbado and Weise, who have done much to open space for black gay studies continue that tradition by compiling some of Bayard Rustin's most famous speeches. The book starts with a well-done biography of the leader. The next sections are speeches on a range of issues which show how thoroughly ahead of his time this brotha was. Near the end of their biography section, the editors admit that much work has come out recently to highlight Rustin (two biographies, a documentary, etc.) Their contribution is that readers finally get to see what Rustin was thinking verbatim. Due to homophobia and Far Right domination, Rustin was often silenced and marginalized. However, he was a feisty figure who also wasn't afraid to butt heads with top dogs. Similarly, his ideas will both impress and disgust readers. This was one opinionated brotha! Still, I love the way this collection disproves many myths: that gay black men don't care about civil rights, that only heterosexuals made black civil rights happen, that James Baldwin was the only black gay man who can be recognized in the struggle, etc. Moreover, Rustin was on the forefront of issue far beyond just his race and sexuality. He spoke of feminism, international affairs, pacifism, labor rights, etc. In a way, it's almost limiting that the editors bring up only "two crosses" in the title of this book. Just like Frida Kahlo, Bayard Rustin juggled many balls and now modern readers get a chance to witness how excellently he did it. I think all progressives, regardless of their race or sexual orientation, will be blown away by this black, gay hero.
If the meek shall inherit, than Bayard Rustin must be a very rich man. Not that the man was personally meek, but his circumstances were. He was a gay black man who was marginalized by the Civil Rights movement he helped found but not embittered by the experience. His thoughtful writing ennobles us all by reading it, especially at this time as we make history by electing our first Black president. I wish Rustin were here to see it. In his thoughtful collection Rustin never fails to come down on the proper side of a moral or ethical question, no matter whom it may offend or support. Bayard Rustin felt that his homosexuality, which he never hid, put him in a unique position. Placed in a minority at the bottom of every other minority, Rustin was engaged in the eradication of prejudice while suffering it himself. His gentle words place no blame, instead he understands. A true hero for the ages. Bayard Rustin. Five stars. Great read.
The editors, Devon Carbado and Donald Weise, have done the important work of bringing to us the writings of the central, but neglected, civil rights- and human rights- activist, Bayard Rustin. Their well-written Introduction does a superb job of properly placing Rustin within his times and sharing the story of this complex and important historical figure. The Rustin writings relating to his life as a gay man in America in the middle part of the 20th century are often as insightful as Rustin's writings on the movement. An important work.
I read this book along with 3 different biographies of Rustin. His life is fascinating and inspiring. The essays in this book are so clearly thought and written. Besides being a great strategic leader, he was really a great philosopher who lived his philosophy. The essays, and his life, have made me review many ideas about nonviolent protest (which I support and engage in), and violence and politics and race and social structure. Much of what he says about all of these is totally relevant today. For me, his legacy of nonviolent direct action lives now and how he thought about it is extremely useful. If you care about any of these topics, read the book.
This is probably the best book I've read all year. Rustin is so under-appreciated. Hopefully he will emerge as one of the most significant figures of the period. The horror of how he was treated by people seeking rights is sad, but I'm that much more grateful that he persevered.
Bayard Rustin to me is a civil rights leader whose writing are still relevant -- especially at the intersection of African-American and Gay Liberation civil rights movements. And, his insights about other civil rights efforts -- such as the women's civil rights movement -- were quite enlightening.
For anyone interested in learning lessons about past civil rights movements of minority community members -- especially for activists in more recent civil rights movements (such as the immigration and transgender civil rights movements) -- this is definitely worth the read.
When I read this book I was reminded of how many leaders are really behind the scenes making things happen. I honestly had no idea though, that leadership was also evolving. Where are the Women in the Civil Rights movement? Where are the gays and lesbians? Rustin was there but he couldnt be in the spotlight because of his sexual orientation. The women in the Civil Rights Movement are usually shown leading in song but not otherwise even though they were a critical part of the movement from the beginning. Excellent read, check it out!