civil rights movement

Gay, Black, and Quaker: History Catches Up with Bayard Rustin

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As NAACP President Ben Jealous told the Times last week, “it’s become clear that, just as Bayard Rustin admonished us all, that we would either stand together or die apart.”

Who admonished us?” readers must have asked. Bayard Rustin’s role as advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and as organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech) should have assured his place in American social and political history. But Rustin has long been denied his proper place—largely because he was an openly gay man.

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“Split at the Root”: Adrienne Rich and (Religious) Identity

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Rich’s approach to her religious identity was of a piece with her approach to every aspect of her identity. For Rich, any identity worth achieving involved struggle and resistance—be it national identity (“a patriot is one who wrestles for the / soul of her country / as she wrestles for her own being”), gender identity (“A thinking woman sleeps with monsters. / The beak that grips her, she becomes.”), or the committed poet’s identity (“She cannot teach the end of bonds; but she can refuse to justify, accord with, ignore their existence”).

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Keeping the “Southern” in Southern Baptist Convention

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For leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, if heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie—with low taxes, fewer regulations, a decreased state involvement in public welfare and institutions, denial of coverage for women’s health concerns, and bitter attacks on the Obama administration launched from every available platform—then they don’t want to go. And even the city slickers running Mitt Romney’s campaigns and the rowdy friends at Ron Paul’s rallies should be able to appreciate that.

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Martin Luther King in the Era of Occupy

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The prophetic tradition of black Christianity remains alive, if embattled. It is impossible to conceive of the civil rights movement without placing black Christianity at its center, for it empowered the rank and file who made the movement move. And when it moved, it was able to demolish the system of legal segregation. The history of black Christianity in America made that transformation possible, even as it frustrated some of the deeper-rooted aims of some activists who sought to address issues of income and wealth inequality as much as the formal legal structures of “civil rights.” That remains the prophetic task of the generation misleadingly labeled as “post-racial.”

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God Dissolves into the Occupy Movement

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Saturday’s surge of Occupy Wall Street-themed actions could be a turning point. There’s obviously more to be felt and said about this than any journalistic treatment could hope to engage; nonetheless, four RD contributors, moderated by Senior Editor Sarah Posner, shared their own thoughts about a movement that remains fluid and thrilling and quite literally indescribable.

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Melissa Harris-Perry: LGBT Advocates Need Public Progressive Faith

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“As a black, feminist, marriage-equality advocate I reside at an important intersection in this struggle. This movement must acknowledge the unique history of racial oppression, while still revealing the interconnections of all marriage exclusion. This work must reflect the feminist critique of marriage, while still acknowledging the ancient, cross-cultural, human attachment to marriage. This work must be staunchly supportive of same-sex marriage, while rejecting a marriage-normative framework that silences the contributions of queer life.”

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