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Lost Prophet: The Life And Times Of Bayard Rustin [Paperback]

John D'emilio
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2004
One of the most important figures of the American civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin taught Martin Luther King Jr. the methods of Gandhi, spearheaded the 1963 March on Washington, and helped bring the struggle of African Americans to the forefront of a nation's consciousness. But despite his incontrovertibly integral role in the movement, the openly gay Rustin is not the household name that many of his activist contemporaries are. In exploring history's Lost Prophet, acclaimed historian John D'Emilio explains why Rustin's influence was minimized by his peers and why his brilliant strategies were not followed, or were followed by those he never meant to help.

Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (1 Oct 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226142698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226142692
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.1 x 3.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 843,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"D'Emilio's biography is an important book about an important man, well researched, with particularly perceptive insights into gay culture in America as well as providing a solid account of the history of the peace movement and the civil rights struggle."--Gerald Early "New York Review of Books "

About the Author

John D’Emilio is professor of history and of gender and women's studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Policy director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, he is coauthor of Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, published by the University of Chicago Press, and author of The World Turned: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and Culture.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A How-To In Movement Building 22 May 2012
Heard of Bayard Rustin before? Me neither. After reading this book, however, I am talking about his story just about everyday. This brilliantly-written account of the life he led is rich in lessons in movement-building and social change strategy. If you are interested in campaigning, social justice and building coalitions to take action - this book is an absolute masterclass in how to achieve your goals.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great historical document 6 Dec 2003
By I. Sondel - Published on Amazon.com
An exhaustive biography of the often overlooked archtect of the civil rights movement. An espouser of Gandhian non-violence and a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rustin was a man of fierce convictions, openly gay in a time when to be so jeopardized even his basic freedoms.
D'Emilio records Rustin's life warts and all. He documents his numerous arrests for acts of civil disobedience, for being a conscientious objector, as well as on a morals charge.
However, it is the triumphs that are most exhilerating to read about. The March on Washington, as one would expect, is a highlight. Finally, and definitively, the credit for coordinating this event is attributed to Rustin. In the face of extreme opposition from the likes of Strom Thurmond and J. Edgar Hoover, Rustin staged an event of epic porportion and historic significance.
Rustin was one of the great unsung heroes of the last century. John D'Emilio's biography, with a cast of characters that reads like a who's who of the twentieth century, is a tribute to Rustin and a model of its kind.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent biography 4 Aug 2005
By Marty G. Price - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Rustin's story is a curious one -- how is it that a militant Quaker pacifist, a man who chose to go to prison during World War II, is found defending Lyndon Johnson's Presidency in 1968? The answer lies in the various tragedies of the '60's: the vestiges of the Cold War that shaped American policies; Johnson's ability to commit to progressive domestic policies but inability to shake free of the worst of the Cold War mentality; the triumphs and the tragic splintering of the American Civil Rights movement; and perhaps in Rustin's personal tragedy, that of a gay, black pacifist whose biggest political obstacle was not found in the radicalism of his ideas but in his attempt to live his personal life as a gay man.

D'Emilo appears to capture all those elements of Rustin, and suggests both how Rustin shaped those political movements in which he involved himself and how they served to shape him.

My students generally all are familiar with Dr. King's speech at the 1963 March on Washington. With few exceptions, however, they have never heard of the two men who planned the March: labor leader A.P. Randolph and Rustin. D'Emilo's book serves to remind us of just how much an injustice it is that Rustin's role in the Civil Rights movement has been so much forgotten.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read 27 Aug 2003
By David Phelps - Published on Amazon.com
A extraordinary account of an extraordinary life. "Lost Prophet" is an engrossing account of how Bayard Rustin became a master strategist for the civil rights movement, despite significant homophobia and a smear campaign by government agencies.
For anyone seeking to making a difference, this inspirational biography by John D'emilio is a "must-read." It will renew your commitment to justice and equality for all, regardless of the obstacles.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Complex Pacifist 31 Mar 2008
By J. Kelly - Published on Amazon.com
"Visionary." "Inspirational." "Controversial." "Black." "Gay." These are some of the many words used as description for Bayard Rustin in Lost Prophet: the Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D'Emilio. He was a nonviolent civil rights activist who firmly believed in the effectiveness of this approach and, despite all of the challenges he faced, was impervious to setbacks - though he had many of them. The author portrays Rustin as one of the unsung heroes of the twentieth century and as an instrumental player in promoting racial equality who is often forgotten and lost in the shuffle of history. This biography is a testament to all that he accomplished; trying in earnest to ensure that his name and impact is no longer overlooked.

Long before the civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1960's, Rustin was deeply involved in promoting equality through the means of non-violence. Raised a Quaker the ideals of pacifism were well embedded in his philosophies that it was only after joining forces with other pacifists, like A.J. Muste, that they together formed several successful organizations. Though his participation in these associations, like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), was impressive it was his personal efforts that were most notable. In the 1942 while on a bus he decided to move to the white section; a decision that resulted in violence he refused to react to and imprisonment.

As an African-American, a homosexual, a former communist, conscientious objector, and pacifist the challenges he faced were many. Not only was he battling the stigmas of his race, he was also battling the stigma of his sexual orientation at a time when recognition of homosexuality was minimal. One event in which he was caught in the midst of a "lewd act" nearly derailed his lifetime of work and goals. Yet, as he continually did, he overcame that seemingly insurmountable obstacle and furthered his role in the civil rights movement. He forged a strong relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr. and taught him the tenants of a nonviolent movement. As a common acquaintance Glenn Smiley said, King "knew nothing" of Ghandian pacifism before Rustin. Though he witnessed the realization of many of his goals, Rustin believed that the fight was never over. As the fight for racial equality slowed down, Rustin recognized that the next big hurdle would be the struggle for gay rights.

D'Emilio's biography of this dynamic historical character is, without a better word to describe it, impressive. For a work of non-fiction, Lost Prophet, reads much like a novel. With simple prose and elegant descriptions, D'Emilio writes a thorough account without being daunting or arduous. He effectively contextualizes Rustin's movements from decade to decade with the appropriate political, economic, and social climate. Because of this we know, for example, that his flirtation with communism in the 1930's had less to do with Stalin's ideas and more to do with the belief that capitalism could not save the floundering American economy. D'Emilio researched Rustin's life so meticulously that one of my only criticisms is that, because he was too specific and detail oriented at times, my attention wavered slightly- though I would imagine that most people would not consider careful research to be a negative.

Finishing this biography of a man I had never heard of, yet who was clearly quite influential, leaves me curious about what else I do not know. Growing up, we are told of the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement he lead, yet little attention is paid to the behind the scenes efforts and the other people involved. Bayard Rustin is a shining example of how popular history can have a blind-spot. And because of this, I thank John D'Emilio for writing this informative biography and for teaching me some forgotten history about the Lost Prophet.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reading! Dr. King Wasn't The Total Mastermind! 19 Dec 2006
By Agie - Published on Amazon.com
I just finished reading this book for my class on The Civil Rights Movement. I have say this book was very good. It gave me much insight into how the movement was more complex than what I was taught in grade school. If you're one of the people like I was who thought Dr. King was the total force behind the movement, you must read this book. You will become far more educated on how much of an impact this man was not only to the Civl Rights Movement, but other endeavors as well. It is sad how easily Rustin has been tossed aside because of prejudice of all things. But this is why it is important to have books like this one that educates and informs.
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