Bayard Rustin Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com August 08 2013 3:48 PM ET

An advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of two openly gay Americans announced as a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, according to a press release from the White House today. 

Bayard Rustin, the openly gay right-hand man to the legendary Dr. King, has been called the "lost prophet" of the Civil Rights Movement. The late Rustin organized demonstrations, rallied activists, and lobbied politicians to help make life better for people of color. He was a key organizer in the historic March on Washington in 1963, where Dr. King delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. Rustin died in 1987.

Rustin will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian honor available — as the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington nears, notes the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbied for Rustin's inclusion. 

"Bayard Rustin’s contributions to the American civil rights movement remain paramount to its successes to this day," said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement. "His role in the fight for civil rights of African-Americans is all the more admirable because he made it as a gay man, experiencing prejudice not just because of his race, but because of his sexual orientation as well."

The White House announced 16 recipients for the Presidential Medal of Freedom today, including a posthumous award for out astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.