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Bayard Rustin Describes the Fellowship of Reconciliation

Bayard Rustin was a gay civil rights activist who was particularly passionate about racial equality. He helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which Martin Luther King Jr. was a president, and which influenced the civil rights movement. As a Quaker, he was also committed to pacifism. In 1944, he was arrested and sent to prison for refusing to join the U.S. army, violating the Selective Service Act. At the time, Rustin worked for The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), an interracial civil rights organization. In this article, Rustin critiqued the role that violence played in society and discussed how pacifism and racial justice intersect. Rustin was fired from his position with FOR in 1953, shortly after he was forced to come out publicly for the first time. Because of homophobia and the stigma that he faced as a gay man, Rustin did not become politcally involved in gay rights struggles until late in his life. However, his status as a gay man and a passionate pacifist makes his voice very relevant to understanding the relationship between LGBTQ+ people and the military.

The Fellowship of Reconciliation

The Fellowship of Reconciliation is a group of people, numbering many thousands and located in many countries of the earth, who are united in their opposition to the use of violence to settle disputes between individuals and nations. While they do not subscribe to any specific pledge, in general —

they refuse to participate in any war or to sanction military preparations; they work to abolish war and to foster good will among nations, races, and classes;

they strive to build a social order which will suffer no individual or group to be exploited for the profit or pleasure of another, and which will assure to all the means for realizing the best possibilities of life;

they advocate such ways of dealing with offenders against society as shall transform the wrong-doer rather than inflict retributive punishment; they endeavor to show reverence tor personality—in the home, in the education of children, in association with those of other classes, nationalities, and races;

they seek to avoid bitterness and contention, and to maintain the spirit of self-giving love while engaged in the struggle to achieve these purposes.

Source | Rustin, Bayard. Interracial Primer. Fellowship of Reconciliation, 1941. Courtesy of Yale Law School.
Item Type | Article/Essay
Cite This document | “Bayard Rustin Describes the Fellowship of Reconciliation ,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 23, 2023,

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