In front of 170 W 130 St., March on Washington, Bayard Rustin (left) with Cleveland Robinson, Chairman of Administrative Committee.


Part 1
Part 1


Audio Note: Tapes 1 and 2 are missing, but the transcripts are complete. The sound on tape 3 is very distorted (pitched high) at the beginning and gradually gets better. The voices are intelligible throughout. The recording ends abruptly in mid-sentence.

Audio courtesy of the University of Kentucky.

Bayard Rustin

1964 (probably later than most interviews)
Related Documents: 
Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin Bio


Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) was a civil rights activist.  Along with A. Philip Randolph, he organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom of 1963. Rustin assisted in the founding of the Congress of Racial Equality in 1942. He was a strong believer in the nonviolent tactics of Gandhi, and he counseled Martin Luther King, Jr. Among many other efforts in the causes of pacifism, civil rights and decolonization (such as in India and Africa), he organized an early "Freedom Ride"--the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, a nonviolent test of the Supreme Court's ruling banning race discrimination in interstate travel. He advised King during the Montgomery bus boycott, and was instrumental in organizing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Because of his open homosexuality, much of his participation in the civil rights movement and pacifism was behind the scenes. He testified on behalf of New York state's gay rights bill and late in life considered gay rights the most important frontier of civil rights. Rustin's legacy includes the Bayard Rustin Educational Complex, Bayard Rustin High School, Bayard Rustin Library, and the Bayard Rustin Social Justice Center. 


Rustin discusses strategies for the civil rights movement and the advancement of African Americans. He favors integration over separatism and believes that identity is found in struggle, not culture. He discusses his concept of the meaning of integration.  In response to a question by Warren about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s conception of African American advancement beyond the civil rights phase, he expresses disagreement with King and notes that objective changes in circumstance, not just "self-improvement," have aided the rise of minority groups in the past. He advocates that an economic program be enacted to make possible such a rise by African Americans. He criticizes Malcolm X, saying that while he and the Nation of Islam may help some African Americans individually, they do nothing to achieve structural change. He discusses the value to the movement of demonstrations, and their future, in detail. He believes demonstrations should now involve the "white dispossessed" to illustrate that African Americans and whites share problems. He says that integrated schools are necessary to prepare children to live together in society. Rustin talks about the dispersed leadership of the civil rights movement. He feels that this is healthier than a centralized leadership and points out that each organization has a role. 


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