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Civil Rights Icon Bayard Rustin
by Jackie Tortora
Bayard Rustin, one of the most prominent activists in the civil rights movement and co-founder of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), will be posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Thursday.
Rustin, who worked closely with Randolph, was a major figure in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A week of actions and celebrations is planned later this month to mark the 50th anniversary of the march. Read more here.
In 1965, Rustin and Randolph founded the APRI, which helped coordinate the AFL-CIO’s work on civil rights and economic justice. He later served as the institute’s director. He was also a regular columnist for the AFL-CIO News, the federation’s newspaper.
In announcing Rustin’s selection, President Barack Obama said:
An adviser to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.
Until his death in 1987, Rustin continued his work for civil and human rights in the United States and abroad. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said:
His role in the fight for civil rights of African Americans is all the more admirable because he made it as a gay man, experiencing prejudice not just because of his race, but because of his sexual orientation as well.
Along with Rustin, 15 others will be honored at a White House ceremony later this year. Read more from APRI and from Peter Drier, E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, Occidental College, on The Huffington Post.
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