August 28 will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. For many the march conjures memories of stirring speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Philip Randolph and John Lewis, or moving songs by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson. Yet there would be no platform for any of these voices were it not for Bayard Rustin, the march’s chief organizer and strategist. Rustin, an openly gay man, labored tirelessly for civil rights, pacifism, and gay rights until his death in 1987. His organization of the March on Washington brought tremendous energy and attention to the Civil Rights movement at a critical moment in history, but not without significant personal risk. Rustin was maligned for his involvement in the march by fellow civil rights leaders and government officials. Yet, he dared to persevere and consistently exposed bigotry wherever he found it—even within the Civil Rights Movement itself.
VTS celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington with gratitude for Bayard Rustin and brave souls like him.