BAYARD RUSTIN AUTOGRAPHED 8×10 PHOTO

Civil Rights

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One of the most interesting confidants in Martin Luther King’s inner circle was Bayard Rustin.  When J. Edgar Hoover began a smear campaign to discredit Rustin based on his homosexuality (and therefore attempt to discredit the Civil Rights Movement), Dr. King distanced himself from him. To avoid attacks based on his sexual orientation, Rustin served rarely as a public spokesperson; he usually acted as an influential adviser to civil-rights leaders.  Bayard Rustin was a leading activist of the early 1947–1955 Civil-Rights Movement. He organized the first of the Freedom Rides (1947) to challenge racial segregation on interstate busing. He recognized Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership, and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen King’s leadership; Rustin promoted the philosophy of nonviolence and the practices of nonviolent resistance, which he had observed while working with Gandhi’s movement in India. Rustin became a leading strategist of the civil rights movement from 1955 to 1968. He was the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was headed by A. Philip Randolph, the leading African-American labor-union president. Rustin also influenced young activists, such as Tom Kahn and Stokely Carmichael, in organizations like the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).