Bayard Rustin

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American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, onetime advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., and the head organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was nearly deemed too controversial to lead his own protest march. A gay pacifist with a history of communist beliefs who had done time for violating the Selective Services Act, Rustin’s inclusion in the movement as a public figure was a sensitive proposition, even though he had been the one to popularize nonviolent protests as a tactic. He was among the first to make the Journey of Reconciliation alongside fellow gay man Igal Roodenko, but following his arrest for homosexual acts, he was fired from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, one of the sponsoring organizations. A documentary chronicling the tension between his achievements and his status as an eternal outsider was later produced to some acclaim. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

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