Bayard Rustin’s Life, Activism to be Conference Subject March 16-18 at Guilford
A celebration to mark the birthday centennial of Bayard Rustin, who was active in movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence and gay rights during his life, will be held at Guilford March 16-18. Titled “A Centennial Celebration for Social Justice,” the conference will be open to the public at no charge. Further information is available by calling Martha Lang, director of LGBTQA Resources at Guilford College, 336-316-2374. Participants may register online.
During his career as an activist and organizer, Rustin (March 17, 1912-Aug. 24, 1987) formulated many of the strategies that shaped and guided the American civil rights movement. He was an African American Friend (Quaker), and his belief in Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence drew black leaders to him, including Martin Luther King Jr., in the 1940′s and 50′s. In 1963, Rustin was one of the main organizers of the March on Washington, the biggest protest America had ever seen. His open homosexuality, however, forced him to remain in the background of the civil rights movement.
“Bayard Rustin is a forgotten hero of the Civil Rights Movement as well as modern Quaker activism,” said Lang. “The conference gives us an opportunity to explore his life and accomplishments and to understand the legacy he left for us. People who attend the conference will come away with a better understanding of how Bayard’s complex contributions to history can inform their work and activism in their own communities.”
Registration will be 3-7 p.m. on Friday in the Founders Hall Lobby. All events will be held at New Garden Friends Meeting, 801 New Garden Road, Greensboro, except for the Sunday sessions which will be held on campus (location TBA). In addition to Guilford College, the Guilford Green Foundation is a sponsor.
Walter Naegle, who was Rustin’s partner from 1977 until his death in 1987, will open the conference at 7 p.m. Friday with a screening of the film Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, and will lead a discussion. Naegle is currently executor and archivist of the Bayard Rustin Estate.
The lunch keynote address will be from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Saturday, March 17, by John D’Emilio, author and professor of history and of women’s and gender studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A former UNCG faculty member, he is author of Lost Prophet: Bayard Rustin and the Quest for Peace; Justice in America; Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities and Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America.
Other speakers on Saturday will be:
- 10:15-11:30 a.m., Hal Weaver, fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, and founding chairperson of the Africana Studies Department at Rutgers University. He is the initiating editor of Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights.
- 2-3:15 p.m., Michael G. Long, associate professor of Religious Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies at Elizabethtown College. He is the editor of I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters, and his current work, a study of Martin Luther King, Jr., homosexuality, and gay rights, has been featured on CNN.
- 3:30-4:45 p.m., David McReynolds, an American socialist and pacifist who described himself as “a peace movement bureaucrat” during his 40-year career with Liberation magazine and the War Resisters League. A close friend of Bayard Rustin, he was the first openly gay man to run for President of the United States.
- 9-10:30 a.m. Sunday, Rev. Kevin E. Taylor, interfaith worship service. A 1987 Guilford College graduate, Taylor is pastor of Unity Fellowship Church New Brunswick and Elder in the Unity Fellowship Church movement. He spent several years of community activism in Washington, D.C.
Other program sessions on are: Saturday, 8-9 a.m., registration; 9-10, opening plenary session; 1:15-1:45 p.m., book signing by D’Emilio, Weaver, Long and Taylor; 5-5:45 p.m. conversation and reflection; 7:30-9:30 p.m., evening program; and Sunday, 10:45 a.m.-noon, closing conversation.