Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, non-violence, and gay rights. Rustin was a leading strategist of the civil rights movement from 1955 to 1968.
On October 27, 1961, he spoke in Norton Hall (now Squire Hall) on the University at Buffalo’s Main Street campus. (see “Rustin Speaking Today in Norton; Folksongs Will Highlight Program” Spectrum Newspaper, 27 October 1961)
Civil Rights – During the event, Rustin discussed civil rights issues. He clarified the purpose of CORE, the committee on racial equality. It was established, he said, not to alleviate the problems between “the white man and the black man, rather to do something about man’s injustice to his brother.” (see “Core Program Discussed by Rustin at Rally” Spectrum Newspaper, 3 November 1961)
Cold War – Before the Rustin lecture, the U.B. chapter of SANE (the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy) held a demonstration on the steps of Norton Hall condemning Russian nuclear testing. Mr. Rustin spoke briefly on the problem of disarmament.
Three days later, on October 30, 1961, the Soviet Union detonated a 58-megaton yield hydrogen bomb known as Tsar Bomba over northern Russia, in the largest man-made explosion ever.
Bayard Rustin will sing folk songs and speak on “Civil Rights and Non-Violent Mass Action” today at noon in Norton auditorium. Mr. Rustin is currently executive secretary of the War Registers League. He will also be available for discussion with students and faculty until 12 at a table in a private dining room in Norton.
An early advocate for non-violent mass action for civil rights, Mr. Rustin studied the Gandhi movement in India in 1948-49. For five years he was advisor and secretary to Martin Luther King. He has traveled widely in Africa, working with Nkrumah in Ghana, Azikiwe in Nigeria, and was arrested 22 times in race struggles. Mr. Rustin had recently returned from three months in Europe where he did preparatory work on the San Francisco-Moscow Walk for Peace.
Traveling under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee, Mr. Rustin’s appearance at the University is sponsored by the Student Christian Association. Norman Whitney, national director of the peace education section of the American Friends Service Committee will also be available for conversation that morning in the private dining area.
—The Spectrum, October 27, 1961
by Joan Flory
Bayard Rustin, executive secretary of the War Resisters League, and advocate of non-violent mass action for civil rights, spoke last Friday in Norton.
His appearance was sponsored by the Student Christian Association, and the Student Senate Committee, and the Student Senate Committee on Segregation. A SANE sponsored demonstration on the steps of Norton preceded the lecture. Mr. Rustin spoke briefly on the problem of disarmament.
Richard Fey, vice-president of the Student Senate, read Senate President Les Foshio’s message condemning the Russian nuclear tests. There was also reference to the Soviet threat to explode a 50 megaton bomb. President Foshio was unable to attend the session.
Carl Zietlow, president of the SANE executive committee also addressed the students before the group entered Norton to hear Mr. Rustin speak on “Civil Rights and Non-Violent Mass Action.”
Initially Mr. Rustin clarified the purpose of Core, committee on racial equality. Core was established, he said, not to alleviate the problems between “the white man and the black man, rather to do something about man’s injustice to his brother.”
Core hopes to do away with injustice wherever it exists. First, said Rustin, man must erase the injustice in himself. The meaning of the Negro sit-ins and freedom rides was also discussed. They exist, the civil-right stated, to “make the nation face the facts…we desire integrated schools or no schools.”
When asked about non-violence as a part of their policy, Mr. Rustin said the “non-violence is important to us, for it is the only method capable of challenging and destroying an institution while simultaneously creating a better one.” This type of action was advocated by Gandhi, the Hebrew prophets, and the religious cults of the east.
Commenting on the plight of the Negro, Mr. Rustin recalled a quote from his boyhood: “Son do not worry about the white man, the hunter, being better off than you are. For keeping a man in the gutter you must sit on him, and you are in the gutter too.”
A question period followed in which the speaker elaborated on the civil rights issue in the south, the outbreak of violence, and the conditions prevalent in Harlem schools.
—The Spectrum, November 3, 1961