Project Update

Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin Pardoned

February 6, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS CONTACT
Ken Lustbader, NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
(917) 848-1776 / [email protected]

BAYARD RUSTIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST,
PARDONED POSTHUMOUSLY BY
CALIFORNIA GOV. NEWSOM

Rustin — one of the most important yet little-known figures
of the civil rights movement — lived in NYC and his former residence
is an NYC LGBT historic site

 

NEW YORK, NY — Thursday, February 6, 2020 —California Gov. Gavin Newsom has posthumously pardoned openly gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. The action comes more than 60 years after Rustin was arrested in Pasadena, CA, for having consensual sex with another man, charged with vagrancy and ordered to register as a sex offender. It was this arrest that publicly outed Rustin as a gay man.

“Prior to his arrest in California, Bayard Rustin was a prominent civil rights activist, conscientious objector and pacifist,” said Amanda Davis, manager for the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, a NYC-based initiative dedicated to researching and celebrating place-based LGBT history throughout the five boroughs. “Rustin returned to New York and the news of his homosexuality was eventually used against him; he was forced to resign from leadership posts.”

Raised as a Quaker, Bayard Rustin was an openly gay African-American activist and devout pacifist who, over the course of five decades, had an immeasurable impact on the civil rights movement in the United States and social justice efforts abroad. One of his many roles was as chief advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1950s and early 1960s, to whom he taught Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent resistance.

 

Bayard Rustin in front of the headquarters of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 170 West 130th Street, Harlem, August 7, 1963. Photo by Orlando Fernandez/World Telegram & Sun.

“Bayard Rustin was, as Gov. Newsom noted, ‘a visionary champion for peace, equality and economic justice,'” said Ken Lustbader, co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project. “He was open and proud of his homosexuality and it was because of this that Rustin was often sidelined — even as he organized some of the most important efforts to advocate for racial justice, chief among these the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. We are pleased to see this wiped from Rustin’s history and encourage all New Yorkers to celebrate his work and visit the sites right here in New York City that connect us with his legacy.”

Gov. Newsom issued a broader clemency initiative to clear others who were victims of the state’s criminalization of the LGBT community.

In New York City, three extant sites that connect to the legacy of Bayard Rustin have been mapped by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project:

 

NAT’L HQ FOR THE 1963 MARCH ON WASHINGTON FOR JOBS AND FREEDOM
170 West 130th Street

Although denied the title of “director” of the March due to his homosexuality, Bayard Rustin is now acknowledged as the lead architect of this history-making event. (more)

 

BAYARD RUSTIN RESIDENCE
Building 7, Penn South

Bayard Rustin lived in an apartment in this Chelsea building complex from 1962 to 1987 (his death). While here, he served as the lead organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and took part in numerous social justice campaigns around the world. (more)

 

BAYARD RUSTIN RESIDENCE
217 Mott Street, Rear

While living here (from 1947 to 1954), Bayard Rustin took part in the influential “Journey of Reconciliation” in 1947 and contributed to other civil rights causes and anti-war campaigns, alongside his Mott Street neighbor and fellow activist Igal Roodenko. (more)

 

 

About the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is a nonprofit cultural initiative and educational resource that is making an invisible history visible by documenting historic and cultural sites associated with the LGBT community throughout New York City.

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