Although his name is not easily recognized beyond Chester County, West Chester native Bayard Rustin is one of the Black visionaries who have shaped the world we live in, writes Ari Shapiro for NPR.
Rustin, the namesake of one of the West Chester Area School District’s three high schools, was one of the most consequential architects of the Civil Rights Movement. He organized the historic March on Washington and introduced the idea of nonviolence to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Looking for a safe place as a Black and gay man, Rustin moved from West Chester to New York City in 1937. An aspiring singer, he soon focused all of his attention on activism.
He was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, adopting his teachings on peaceful protests. He traveled around the country, sharing the message of nonviolence as he organized protests, marches, and sit-ins.
In 1956, he joined forces with Dr. King, a rising star in the Civil Rights Movement. During their discussions about strategy and tactics, Rustin explained peaceful protests and proposed to Dr. King to adopt this principle of absolute nonviolence, which he accepted.
As a gay man, he continued to work behind the stage, mobilizing others and organizing numerous events, including the 1963 March on Washington.
Read more about Bayard Rustin at NPR here.