A song for the unsung Bayard Rustin, the man behind the 1963 March on Washington

Carole Boston Weatherford, 1956-

Book - 2022

"On August 28, 1963, a quarter of a million activists and demonstrators from every corner of the United States convened for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was there that they raised their voices in unison to call for racial and economic justice for all Black Americans, to call out inequities, and ultimately to advance the Civil Rights Movement. Every movement has its unsung heroes: individuals who work in the background without praise or accolades, who toil and struggle without notice. One of those unsung heroes was at the center of some of the most important decisions and events of the Civil Rights Movement. That hero was a quiet man, a gay African American man. He was Bayard Rustin."--

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Children's Room j323.0922/Weatherford Due Mar 10, 2024
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Review by Booklist Review

On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people descended on Washington, DC, to march for jobs and freedom for Black people. Leading the march was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but its orchestrator was Bayard Rustin, a proponent of the nonviolent resistance that would become a hallmark of the civil rights movement. Rustin's own peaceful protests landed him in jail more than once, and he was passionately committed to civil rights. So why was he unsung during his life? Because, the authors explain, he was a gay Black man, the victim of a different kind of prejudice. Next to civil rights, music was at the center of Rustin's life--a fact that gives this exemplary picture-book biography the imperative, on nearly every page, to invite readers to sing civil rights anthems such as "We Shall Overcome." Rustin's life is beautifully captured by illustrator McCray's bold, textured artwork--created with acrylics, decorative and handmade papers, newspaper, and sheet music--which harnesses the energy and spirit of the man and the movement. Robust back matter offers further information on Rustin's life, peaceful protest, and the March on Washington (including a YouTube link to Rustin giving a speech), plus well-curated reading lists. The result is a splendid tribute to a true hero of the civil rights movement.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Boston Weatherford and Sanders detail the often unsung contributions of Bayard Rustin (1912--1987) to the civil rights movement in this picture book biography, which alternates his life story with pivotal scenes leading up to the 1963 March on Washington. Raised by his Black Quaker grandmother, Rustin witnesses her activism at an early age, including her offer of hospitality ("Young Bayard gave up his bed when well-known NAACP members stayed overnight"); by college, "Bayard had developed firm beliefs and a mighty singing voice," and begins fighting for equality through nonviolence. Subsequent spreads acknowledge Rustin as the organizer of the March on Washington, detail the prejudice he experienced as both a Black man and a gay man, and intersperse song titles linked to his actions ("Sing 'Every Time I Feel the Spirit' to keep the faith"). McCray's mixed-media illustrations include decorative papers and printed ephemera, giving the story visual depth that aligns with the layered telling. Extensive back matter concludes. Ages 6--10. (Nov.)

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Review by Horn Book Review

This necessary backstory of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom illuminates the significant role played by activist Bayard Rustin in that immensely successful event. Born in 1912, Rustin was raised by his grandmother on Quaker values of nonviolence and awareness of injustices suffered by fellow African Americans. In later years, he "put his feelings about equality and pacifism into action." Undeterred in his resolve, he was beaten, arrested, and jailed for refusing to give up his seat on a bus or to fight in World War II. Upon his return from India, where he traveled to learn about nonviolent protest from Gandhi's followers, he introduced the philosophy to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It became the strategy that anchored the civil rights movement. Although rebuked and sidelined because he was gay, Rustin remained committed to his personal cause of equality for all. Weatherford and Sanders's engaging and fluid narrative is accentuated with titles of protest songs, alluding to Rustin's love of music and its importance in the civil rights movement. Acrylics in bold, vibrant colors with collage elements convey the quiet, unassuming demeanor of Rustin as well as the triumphant spirit of the March on Washington. Back matter includes a timeline, information on music and peaceful protests, a copy of the official program, and references. Pauletta Brown BracyJanuary/February 2023 p.114 (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A rare tribute to a heroic figure of the civil rights movement. Distinctly underrecognized in books aimed at younger audiences (in large part because he was gay--which the authors note repeatedly), Bayard Rustin well merits the credit he gets here not only for organizing the renowned March on Washington (and speaking at it, too), but for actually introducing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the principles of nonviolent protest after learning pacifism at his Quaker grandmother's knee, being imprisoned as a conscientious objector during World War II, and traveling to India to learn from Gandhi's followers. As a younger man, he also sang in a touring quartet, and that musical theme is picked up with a playlist of spirituals and civil rights songs posted throughout. Notable in the generous backmatter is an image of the march's official program and an excerpted history of peaceful protest (post-Thoreau). McCray captures both a sense of the time's widespread turmoil and of the march's grand "mosaic of Americans" in collages that incorporate acrylics, scraps of newspaper, music, and decorated papers. (This book was reviewed digitally.) Effectively raises the profile of an African American crusader who was stigmatized for more than his race alone. (timeline, information on music and the march, further reading) (Picture-book biography. 8-10) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.