Final Draft - MC 112, Sec. 1 Prof. Lynn Scott May 2, 2007...

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MC 112, Sec. 1 Prof. Lynn Scott May 2, 2007 Second Draft Bayard Rustin, a less well known figure of the Civil Rights movement, influenced platforms, counseled leaders and advanced the issues of social justice in America perhaps more than any other single participant. Rustin built his public career on a foundation of nonviolent action. He spent decades working for pacifist organizations and is credited with influencing Martin Luther King’s platform of nonviolent resistance used in the Montgomery bus boycott and acting as the deputy director of the 1963 March on Washington. Yet in the mid to late 1960’s, when sentiment against the war in Vietnam was building, Rustin curiously backed away from participating in the peace movement. In contrast with his pacifist history, Rustin does not step forward to help frame the movement; and privately and publicly criticizes other leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. for their anti-war statements. (D’Emilio) Why the seemingly conflicting political agendas and inconsistent public statements concerning the conflict in Vietnam? It has been suggested that Rustin, often described as a pragmatist, may simply have seen this break with the administration as counter productive to the goal of coalition politics; or that it may have signaled a turn toward the conservative. Others hint that Rustin’s actions were self-serving, enabling him to curry favor with the White House thus advancing his agenda and affording him a national public role after many decades of obscurity. It is more likely that Rustin’s growing belief that freedom and equality for blacks in America were
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tied to economic advancement, coupled with his anti-Communist views, fostered his controversial commentary on the war in Vietnam. Rustin’s increasing emphasis on politics over protest had far reaching implications for the Civil Rights movement. Bayard Rustin came up in the social movements of the 1930’s briefly joining the Young Communist League. Within a few years, disillusioned with Communism’s shifting focus away from racial and social issues in the United States following Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Rustin withdrew from the Communist party and found a base within socialism. (Rustin, Strategies for Freedom ) It was here that his lifelong agenda began to take form. Influenced by the strong Quaker tradition of his hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania and the moral force of his mentors, A. Philip Randolph and AJ Muste, Rustin helped to construct the framework of the early civil rights movement. His affiliation with the religious-pacifist organization, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), and his time as a leader in the early days of CORE, solidified Rustin’s commitment to using nonviolent direct-action as a tool for change in the struggle for racial equality and justice. Rustin’s history of opposition to war culminated in 1943 when he received notice
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This note was uploaded on 07/12/2008 for the course MC 112 taught by Professor Phillips during the Spring '08 term at Michigan State University.

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Final Draft - MC 112, Sec. 1 Prof. Lynn Scott May 2, 2007...

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