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Chicago Public Library Thu Aug 15 2013

Historian Illuminates the Life of Civil Rights Revolutionary Bayard Rustin

Rustin_interior.jpgAs a civil rights activist in mid-century America, Bayard Rustin was ahead of his time. The organizer of the monumental 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Bayard is credited with counseling Martin Luther King, Jr. in the non-violent modes of protest he learned by studying Gandhi. In 1947 Rustin organized a group of interracial men to challenge segregated seating on interstate buses, 14 years before the renowned Freedom Riders of the 1960s. And if he wasn't enough of a renegade already, Rustin was openly gay at a time when being gay usually meant being (deep) in the closet.

So why don't more people know about Bayard Rustin? This is the question posed by UIC historian John D'Emilio, who will explore the answers at Modern Lives & Movements: A Conversation with John D'Emilio on Saturday, August 17 at 2pm at the Chicago Public Library Edgewater branch, 6000 N. Broadway Street.

Now's the time to discover and celebrate the life and work of Rustin; in this month of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the White House announced this week that Rustin, along with 16 others, will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor, the highest civilian award in the country.

Rustin died in 1987 of a perforated appendix and was survived by Walter Naegle, his partner of ten years. To bone up on Rustin before the event, read this fun-to-read profile by Steve Hendrix for the Washington Post, and check out Brother Outsider, a 2003 documentary directed by Nancy D. Kates and Bennett Singer.

D'Emilio studies movements for social justice, the history of sexuality, and gay/lesbian politics. The author or editor of nine books, he is best known for Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America and Lost Prophet: the Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2003.

D'Emelio will answer questions, and copies of his books will be available for signing and sale.

Photo courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign.

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