Troublemaker for Justice

Troublemaker for Justice
The Story of Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the March on Washington

Booklist, Starred Review
Jun 1, 2019

"Though little remembered today, Bayard (rhymes with fired) Rustin was a major leader of the American civil rights movement, a mentor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a chief organizer of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A committed pacifist and believer in the power of nonviolence, Rustin was actively involved in civil rights protests, landing himself in prison 20 times by 1969. His commitment to human rights found expression not only in the U.S. but internationally as well. So why is he largely unsung? The authors (Jacqueline Houtman, Michael G. Long, and Walter Naegle) argue it is because he was openly gay. While presenting a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rustin, President Obama confirmed this, saying, 'This great leader . . . was denied his rightful place in history because he was openly gay.' The three authors of this thoughtful and informative biography—the narrative text of which is greatly amplified by a generous collection of black-and-white sidebar features—have gone a long way to rectifying this injustice. Though the book lacks original interviews, further valuable information and insight are offered thanks to the fact that one of the authors, Naegle, was Rustin's life partner for the last 10 years of his life. This biography is an indispensable addition to the literature of both civil and gay rights."—Michael Cart, Booklist

Kirkus Reviews * Starred Review
May 22, 2019

"Readers are introduced to Bayard Rustin, a brilliant, black, gay civil rights leader. Principle organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, Rustin was a landmark contributor to many of the turnkey moments of the civil rights movement, though his name and the fullness of his life have been relegated to the shadows due to his personal commitment to living as an out gay black man and his youthful relationship with communist organizing which he later renounced. Over time many people would attempt to weaponize these facts against him, yet Rustin remained true to his convictions, and his wisdom and clarity would ultimately be valued by many of those same people and institutions. This brief but comprehensive biography, written with the help of Rustin's longtime partner, Naegle, and featuring stunning archival photographs, covers the legacy of a man who utilized the roots of his Quaker faith to uplift movements throughout the world. In clear prose with informative sidebars that provide important context, it follows Rustin from his pacifist beginnings to his work mentoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his later years traveling the world to support the rights of refugees. In today's political landscape, this volume is a lesson in the courage to live according to one's truth and the dedication it takes to create a better world. An essential guide to the life of Bayard Rustin, architect of critical movements for freedom and justice." (endnotes, timeline, discussion questions, bibliography) (Biography. 10-18)

Foreword Magazine
May 1, 2019

"Packed full of sidebars with additional context—including regarding the Quakers' views of civil rights, the nonviolent philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, and Jim Crow laws—the book also lists additional resources, includes a timeline of Rustin’s life, and forwards discussion questions. . . . Troublemaker for Justice is a helpful primer for young readers about a civil rights leader who’s worth learning more about."—Jeff Fleischer, Foreword Magazine


A feature about Bayard Rustin by Samantha Bee on "Full Frontal"
Feb 24, 2019

In Newly Found Audio, A Forgotten Civil Rights Leader Says Coming Out 'Was An Absolute Necessity': NPR
Jan 6, 2019

Why MLK's Right-Hand Man Was Nearly Written Out of History
Jun 1, 2018

Bayard Rustin was an indispensable force behind the Civil Rights Movement . . . and openly gay.

Walter Naegle discusses his relationship with Bayard Rustin on StoryCorps
Jun 25, 2015

Long before same-sex marriage, "adopted son" could mean "life partner." Walter Naegle and Bayard Rustin became partners in the 1970s and were together until Rustin's death. Decades before gay marriage was an option, Rustin adopted Naegle to lend legal protection to their relationship. 

John Lewis discusses Bayard Rustin on Slate
Jan 15, 2015

John Lewis comments on the moment when civil rights activists opted against choosing Bayard Rustin, a key architect and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and a close adviser of King's, to be chairman of the march. Rustin was gay and considered a liability because he had been arrested a decade earlier on morals charges. "He was pushed aside. He was brilliant, but they thought it would hurt the movement—that certain senators would use it against the march. It was wrong," Lewis remembers. “It was an affront to the man, to what he stood for, and to the contributions he made.”