The Man in the Shadows

National History Day: Bayard Rustin

Research Question:

What are the rights and responsibilities surrounding Bayard Rustin’s impact on the civil rights movement, specifically The March on Washington held in 1963? How did Bayard Rustin contribute to the Civil Rights Act of 1964? How did Bayard Rustin’s political and moral beliefs contribute to the civil right’s movement?


Bayard Rustin was not only the man behind the shadows, but also the mastermind behind The March on Washington. He organized the event and felt morally obligated to stand up against inequality. Rustin believed his responsibility was to promote the rights of the oppressed in America. Rustin helped the government to realize the importance of equality by promoting the inequalities that existed and, primarily, with The March on Washington. Due to Bayard Rustin’s homosexuality he was kept behind the scene because Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights advocates Rustin worked with did not want him to be persecuted for his homosexuality as well. Rustin also believed in nonviolent actions paired with democratic procedure, which explains why he worked with King.


Best Sources

Primary: In 1965 Bayard Rustin wrote the speech From Protest to Politics: The Future of the Civil Rights Movement. This speech explains how Rustin wanted the Negro community to become involved in politics. The speech also represents and justifies the extent Rustin believed violence could carry the Negro community.

Secondary: Gregg Sangillo wrote Gay Rights: Civil or Moral? in 2010. This article gave me insight into Bayard Rustin's personal life. The article also helped me understand how difficult Rustin's life was due to his race and sexuality.

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"Take power away from those who misuse it- at which point they become human too." -Bayard Rustin