New Book Details Bayard Rustin's Life In Personal Letters

To celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Bayard Rustin, the openly gay and oft-looked over civil rights leader who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and helped organize events like the iconic 1963 March On Washington, author Michael Long has released a new book entitled I Must Resist: The Life and Letters of Bayard Rustin.

Rustin, like King was targeted by the federal government for his involvement in the movement. The book includes a telegraph written in 1965. In it, Rustin urges New York Mayor Robert Wagner to take immediate action, such as creating a civilian police review board to avoid what he calls a "long hot summer." Read it below, and read J. Edgar Hoover's letter to Attorney General Robert Kennedy urging he take action against Rustin HERE.

May 19, 1965

 You will recall that almost a year ago Dr. Martin Luther King and I placed before you the demands that had been drawn up by New York's Negro leaders, and outlined a specific program designed to deal with the fundamental problems underlying the violence then raging in the ghettos of New York.

Paramount among those problems we stated were police brutality and economic hardship, particularly as manifest in unemployment of Negro and Puerto Rican youth. The proposals we laid before you have not been implemented.

Yet before us stretches a summer of even greater youth unemployment and summering discontent provoked by continuing examples of reported police brutality and discrimination, as in the Whitmore and Sideratos cases. Having failed to move to eliminate the causes of social discord, you and your administration cannot escape major responsibility should last summer's tragedy be repeated.

The choice before you is clear; either you creatively meet the causes of discontent in spring, or negatively face another long, hot summer. The prompt establishment of a genuine civilian police review board independent of the city administration, the creation of a municipal job program for youth, and the appointment of a qualified Puerto Rican to the school board are three among many steps that must now be taken.

Many of us who went in the streets last summer to help establish peace know that nothing short of a bold social and economic program can counteract the frustration in the city's ghettos. For social peace cannot exist in a vacuum; it is a byproduct of justice obtained.

I therefore call upon you to meet with the representatives of the Negro and Puerto Rican communities to present now your concrete proposals for implementing the programs that Negro and Puerto Rican leaders urged upon you since last summer—-the same proposals that Dr. King and I emphasized in three days of discussion with you and your aides. I repeat: better to have a well planned spring than a long, hot summer once again.

Bayard Rustin