Brother Outsider: The Life Of Bayard Rustin
Civil-rights advocate, nonviolent protester, conscientious objector, labor organizer, religious intellectual, African-American, homosexual--any one of those identity tags could get a man or woman in trouble in this country's roiling 20th-century culture wars. All applied to Bayard Rustin, whose impressive life is chronicled in co-directors Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer's Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin. Taking excerpts from Rustin's writings, interviews with those who knew him, and snippets from Rustin's FBI file, Brother Outsider follows Rustin from his early years in West Chester, Pa., to New York in the late 1930s, where he put himself through City College with money earned singing in Josh White's Carolinians. Rustin's activist streak took hold in the Big Apple: During these years, he served time for refusing to register with Selective Service and for refusing to move to the back of the bus. Comfortably confident in being the smartest and most captivating man in any room, Rustin's ease with who and what he was may be why he and his works are not more well-known today. A "morals" arrest--read: "homosexual" by 1950s' standards--in California was held over Rustin's head for the rest of his life, the main reason he pulled himself out of many actions for fear that his record would overshadow the bigger picture for which he fought. Rustin was too diverse for a 1960s and '70s climate that preferred its public figures more easily managed by identity politics' blinders. Brother Outsider presents a finely detailed picture of a man who, even after his death in 1987, inspired people simply by being himself.