Interview with Bayard Rustin
QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

THE BLACK MAN IN AMERICA IN 1947, '48, '49, EARLY FIFTIES. WHAT HAPPENED IN THE EARLY FIFTIES THAT STARTED THIS CHANGE, THAT SOMETHING HAD, BEGINS TO HAPPEN? KILLING HAS BEEN HAPPENING BEFORE [unintelligible] BEGINS TO SURFACE. WHAT IS THAT?

Bayard Rustin:

Well I think the beginning of this period from '54 has its roots in the returning soldiers after '45. There was a great feeling on the part of many of these youngsters that they had been away, they had fought in the war, that they were not getting what they should have. And already black and white soldiers coming home from the war were sitting anywhere they wanted in the buses, they were being thrown in jail. There was a great feeling that the A. Philip Randolph movement to stop discrimination in the armed forces, had been helpful but it was not enough. And that already there was a building up of a militancy, not so much as going into the streets, as much as we are not going to put up with this anymore. But what was lacking was that they did not have the Supreme Court backing them. But when the Supreme Court came out with the Brown decision in '54, things began rapidly to move. Because those, some of us had been sitting down in the front of those buses for years, but nothing happened. And what made '54 such an unusual was that once the Supreme Court said that you are in fact in the Brown decision, equal to all other citizens. The Brown decision was not merely about education. It established black people as being citizens with all the rights of all other citizens. Then it was very easy for that militancy, which had been building up, to express itself in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of '55.

[unintelligible background conversation][tone]