Nancy Kates: Bayard Rustin was a critically important figure in the history of the civil rights movement, yet he remains largely unknown. Rustin made major contributions to movements for peace, racial equality, economic justice, and human rights. In a nation still torn by racial hatred and violence, bigotry against the gay community, and extraordinary divides between rich and poor, Rustin’s eloquent voice has much to teach us today.
Bennett Singer: Late in 2002, a controversy erupted in Rustin’s hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania, over whether to name a new high school after Rustin. As a Quaker who refused to register for the draft during World War Two, Rustin was convicted on felony charges and spent three years in federal prison. Opponents say that in light of this record, Rustin is not a suitable role model for young people; supporters counter that Rustin’s civil disobedience places him in the tradition of Gandhi and Thoreau-and that his life demonstrates the power of a single individual to bring about profound change. I hope that Brother Outsider will enable viewers to reach their own conclusions about Rustin’s life and legacy.