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Black History Month: Bayard Rustin: The Troubles I’ve Seen



Author: Jervis Anderson

Format: Hardcover, paperback, 1998,

Genre: Biography

***Fascinating note about the author: Jervis Anderson (born Oct. 1, 1932, Jamaica—found dead Jan. 7, 2000, New York, N.Y.), Jamaican-born American biographer and journalist. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker from 1968 to 1998 and wrote highly praised biographies of African American civil rights leaders Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph. Serialized in The New Yorker in 1972, Anderson’s profile of Randolph appeared in book form as A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait in 1973. Bayard Rustin: Troubles I’ve Seen (1997) became a best-seller.

Synopsis: Jervis Anderson, the author, provides readers with insight into the life and times of Bayard Rustin. Recently, on the occasion of the anniversary of the March on Washington (1963-2013), Bayard Rustin has won new acclaim during tributes and celebrations. This book permits readers to learn how a young, Black, boy of Quaker grooming grew to become an activist an architect of the famed March on Washington.
Rustin was unusual and he was born into an equally unusual family. He was adopted by his grandparents because they felt that his mother was not ready for parenting, at seventeen years of age. The family was deeply ethical and moral. Readers learn that these ideals and principles exhibited by Rustin, later in life, were actually traits instilled within him very early. He was above a very moral man. He aspired to be an educator, in the early stages of his life. Readers learn, also, that he was a devotee of education throughout his life. But, he realized the importance of the global classroom and the confines of a school offered too many limitations. Rustin refused to allow his voice to be quelled. And Rustin refused to hide his sexuality. As a homosexual man, during the era of American prudishness, Rustin was brave. But, his bravery came at a cost. The March on Washington had been a vision of Rustin for many years. However, A. Phillip Randolph obtained much of the credit for the march because of the feared backlash against Rustin. Rustin had explored Communism in his youth. Communism and homosexuality were the biggest fears of mainstream America in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Dr. Martin Luther King emerged as a champion of Rustin. Although, the two men shared a similar devotion to religion, pacifism, and Mahatma Gandhi, there were conflicts. Dr. King was aware of the threat of rejection by conservative forces because of Rustin’s life choices. However, Dr. King realized the merit and worth of Rustin, as ally and resource.
Bayard Rustin is rediscovered in this book. He is the gentleman with the quickly assumed British accent, the lively friend, associate, the academic, the moral counsel, and the man fighting for just causes. Educators, historians, and the students (*that we all are) will enjoy this work. Black History month is a time to rediscover our national, Black treasures.

Critique: I was astonished at how well the author researched the life of Bayard Rustin. Jervis Anderson, also, made the information manageable. The book read smoothly and clearly. Bayard Rustin became a living, human being. Yet, he was far more skilled and braver than the rest of us. I credit the author, most of all, with making this book a timeless classic for generations to come. The American Civil Rights Movement was a movement of people from different walks of life towards one destination…the freedom of all Americans.

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