Every year, Americans remember the life of the man became a symbol of courage and struggle. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life has been celebrated in much great literature: My colleague Carolyn Kellogg assembled a reading list of essential books about King last year.
But King was inspired by an existing tradition of nonviolent resistance to injustice. One of the men who helped shape King’s ideas — he’s often been called a leading mentor to King — was Bayard Rustin.
Rustin’s contributions to the civil rights movement are not nearly as well-known as King’s. A recent event at Yale University celebrating his life called him “the most important civil rights leader you’ve never heard of.”