Civil rights leader Bayard Rustin on the class conscious roots of SNCC

Since the 1990s, with social historians looking back on how we’ve told the history of the Civil Rights Movement, Bayard Rustin has come to the fore as a central leader in the movement. Specifically, for decades, he was the unsung hero behind the conceptualization of the 1963 March on Washington. But more than that, this civil rights strategist’s life was intersectional before intersectional identities were theorized in academia’s scholarship.

Bayard Rustin gif telling about his civil rights activism.

A Black History Month salute to Bayard Rustin through oral history. Gif credit: Sundance DocNow/@FOXADHD via Giphy

In this wide-ranging oral history from our collection, Rustin sat down with an interviewer in 1987 and shared his reflections on everything from trade unionism to the seeds of Black politics in Garveyism to the struggles of the day, such as bringing down the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Here’s a clip of Rustin’s thinking on how the emergence of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) reflected shifts in African-Americans’ class consciousness.

 

You can hear more from Rustin and others on the civil rights by searching our Oral History Portal or stopping in to the Columbia Center for Oral History Archives at Columbia University.