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Bayard Rustin

leader of the civil rights movement

Although Bayard Rustin was one of the most important leaders of the American civil rights movement from the advent of its modern period in the 1950s until well into the 1980s, his name was seldom mentioned; he received comparatively little press or media attention, and others' names were usually much more readily associated with the movement than his was. His was a behind-the-scenes role that, for all its importance, never garnered Rustin the public acclaim he may have deserved. Rustin's homosexuality and early communist affiliation probably meant that the importance of his contribution to the civil rights and peace movements would never be acknowledged. However, fairness demands that the extent of Rustin's work receive a fair public reception. Bayard Taylor Rustin was born on March 17, 1912, to Florence Rustin, one of eight children of Julia and Janifer Rustin of West Chester, Pennsylvania. Florence's child had been born out of wedlock; the father was Archie Hopkins. Julia and Janifer decided to raise young Bayard as their son, the youngest of the large Rustin family. Julia Rustin had been raised a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers), and even though she attended the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the denomination of her husband, she impressed on the children she raised certain Quaker principles: the equality of all human beings before God, the vital need for nonviolence, the importance of dealing with everyone with love and respect.