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Lost Prophet : The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin Hardcover – August 11, 2003

4.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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George Chauncey author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 In this absorbing reappraisal of Bayard Rustin's tumultuous life and times, John D'Emilio shows how Rustin became one of the most brilliant and influential strategists of the peace and civil rights movements in the 1950s, and then came to be reviled as a conservative by many leftists in the late 1960s. D'Emilio also provides a stunning account of how Rustin's homosexuality shaped his career, as his foes -- from Strom Thurmond to Adam Clayton Powell -- tried to use it to discredit his leadership and force him into the shadows. This revelatory work of biography finally restores Rustin to history in all of his complexity and humanity. -- Review

About the Author

John D'Emilio is professor of history and of gender and women's studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, from 1995 to 1997 he served as the Founding Director of the Policy Institute at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He is the co-author of Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (1997). He earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1982.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (August 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684827808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684827803
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,280 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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