Bayard Rustin (March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987) was an American leader and activist in many social movements but was especially prominent in civil rights, gay rights, socialism and non-violence. He was the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington to promote civil rights. It was one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States. He had been arrested in 1953 because of his sexuality and had been criticized by some of his fellow activists. After that he attempted to stay out of the public eye until the 1970’s, when he openly worked for the rights of gays and lesbians.
“Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Rustin worked as a human rights and election monitor for Freedom House. He also testified on behalf of New York State’s Gay Rights Bill. In 1986, he gave a speech “The New Niggers Are Gays,” in which he asserted,
“Today, blacks are no longer the litmus paper or the barometer of social change. Blacks are in
every segment of society and there are laws that help to protect them from racial discrimination.
The new “niggers” are gays. . . . It is in this sense that gay people are the new barometer for
social change. . . . The question of social change should be framed with the most vulnerable
group in mind: gay people.” (Source: Wikipedia)