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By Paul Maresh, Portland, Oregon
Published: 13 October 2022

This hefty volume gives us the thoughts and words of Bayard Rustin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., A. Phillip Randolph, A.J. Muste and countless others in the Civil Rights Movement (as well as those who attempted to keep the tide from turning).

Born in 1912, Rustin was raised by his grandmother, Julia Rustin. Through her, he received the lessons of the Massachusetts Monthly Meeting and those precepts fanned the strong foundation for his lifelong work for peace and justice.

An out gay man decades before the Gay Liberation Movement had become accepted, Rustin was known and respected within the American activist community.

He was tapped by A. Phillip Randolph to help with the March On Washington Movement, 1941-46, to provide fair working conditions for African Americans and desegregation of the military.

Embracing the movement

Rustin was arrested 22 times. His commitment to peace would not even allow him to participate in the war by registering as a conscientious objector. When sent to federal prisons in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, 1944-46, he began right off the bat by calling the warden to task for racial segregation in the prison.

While in prison he began working for A.J. Muste and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Upon his release he began working for the Free India Committee, and then travelled to India to learn about non-violent action from Mahatma Gandhi. In the l950s, he was one of the people in the movement who convinced Dr. King and other leaders, in what became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to embrace Gandhi's tactics of non-violent resistance to power.

A formidable leader

In 1963 some leaders objected to Rustin (a gay man) being a lead organizer for the Poor People's March, and asked A. Phillip Randolph to take the job; Randolph said he would but only if he could have 100 percent control over hiring his staff. Told yes, Randolph then hired Rustin as his deputy. Rustin put the entire team together from accomplished organizers he had known and worked with for years. All the rides, publicity and accommodations were assembled in a short time--years before fax machines or the internet. A lot of poor people at this time did not even have basic phone service. Reading these first-hand accounts we see how Rustin's socialist outlook, Quaker faith and formidable work ethic gave us a man with phenomenal organizing abilities to create inclusion and diversity. Work he continued until his death in 1987. Though the media may lionize only one or two individuals, the letters show that progress is the result of many people working together for the benefit of all.

Anyone with a desire for peace and justice will be very glad they read this book.

Purchase I Must Resist on Amazon.

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