Bayard Rustin (; March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987) was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights.
Rustin worked with A. Philip Randolph on the March on Washington Movement in 1941 to press for an end to racial discrimination in employment. Rustin later organized Freedom Rides and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership, teaching King about nonviolence and later serving as an organizer for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.After the passage of the civil rights legislation of 1964–65, Rustin became the head of the AFL–CIO’s A. Philip Randolph Institute, which promoted the integration of formerly all-white unions and promoted the unionization of African Americans. During the 1970s and 1980s, Rustin served on many humanitarian missions, such as aiding refugees from Communist Vietnam and Cambodia. At the time of his death in 1987, he was on a humanitarian mission in Haiti.
Rustin was a gay man who had been arrested early in his career for engaging in public sex. Due to criticism over his sexuality, he usually acted as an influential adviser behind the scenes to civil-rights leaders. In the 1980s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay causes.
Later in life, Rustin shifted ideologically towards neoconservatism, for which President Ronald Reagan posthumously praised him after his death in 1987. On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.