On the Lived Theology Reading List: I Must Resist

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin's Life in Letters, by Bayard RustinBayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

I Must Resist is a collection of letters written by Rustin himself, giving a glimpse into the mind of one of the most important civil rights organizers of the era. Rustin, a master strategist and tireless activist, is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States. He brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement and played a deeply influential role in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to mold him into an international symbol of nonviolence. Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background. He was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned, and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.

Although Rustin was often not in the spotlight, this book aims to rectify that by showing how his contributions were integral to the development of a movement. I Must Resist includes 150 of Rustin’s eloquent, impassioned letters; his correspondents include the major progressives of his day — including Eleanor Holmes Norton, A Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker, and of course, Martin Luther King Jr.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Rustin was a life-long agitator for justice. He changed America—and the world—for the better. This collection of his letters makes his life and his passions come vividly alive, and helps restore him to history, a century after this birth. I Must Resist makes for inspiring reading.”—John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

“These letters–poetic, incisive, passionate, and above all political in the broadest meaning of the word–span almost four decades not only of Bayard Rustin’s life but of the emotional and spiritual life of America. There is hardly a social justice movement during this time in which Rustin was not involved from pacifism to ending poverty to battles for sexual freedom. Michael Long’s brilliant editing has created a compelling historical narrative and reading these letters is to be witness to the ever-evolving conscience that guides our country’s endangered, but surviving, commitment to freedom.”—Michael Bronksi, author of A Queer History of the United States

“A vital addition to the history of the civil rights movement by an exceptionally determined, vital and creative force who was invaluable to Martin Luther King Jr and A. Philip Randolph among many others.”—Nat Hentoff

For more information on the publication, click here.

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

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