Bayard Rustin Receives 1965 WRL Peace Award

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War Resisters League - One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance
Bayard Rustin speaking at War Resisters League meeting
Bayard Rustin at War Resisters League meeting (Photo courtesy of Bayard Rustin Estate)

Listen to Bayard Rustin's 1965 War Resisters League Peace Award acceptance speech, introduced by A.J. Muste (Courtesy Swarthmore College Peace Collection)

On April 27, 1965, Bayard Rustin was presented with the seventh annual War Resisters League Peace Award at WRL’s 42nd annual dinner. In making the presentation A.J. Muste noting that Bayard “suffered for his convictions and held firmly and courageously to them… [A] tireless seeker for more effective ways to advance the cause of freedom, peace, and humanity throughout the world.”

In accepting the award Rustin remarked, “Actually, friends, the War Resisters League has done so much for me that I should be giving it some kind of an award…. I would like to say to you that I sincerely believe that I'm one of the most fortunate people on Earth for having been associated with the League….

“It was the War Resisters League which made it possible one period in my career when I was not able really to make a contribution that I wanted to make. You had faith enough in me to call me to work and this I shall never, never forget….

“All that I can pledge is that I believe firmly in nonviolence. I believe firmly that no basic change can come without social, economic and political and psychological revolution. And that I will pledge to the best of my ability to hold firmly with you to these ideas….”

He concluded his remarks by singing the spiritual “Daybreak’s a comin’.”

Fourteen years later, almost to the day, Bayard attended the 1979 WRL Annual Dinner that honored fellow World War II resister and former WRL chair Igal Roodenko with its 19th Annual Peace Award. Bayard closed the evening by leading the group in song. (Jul-Aug 1979 WRL News)

An audio recording of Muste’s presentation, Rustin’s acceptance speech, and the song can be played above and also found beginning at 27:35 in the first of these digitized reels from the entire evening.

An annotated transcription of his remarks and song can be found here.

- Ed Hedemann


Swarthmore College Peace Collection Sound Recordings, hosted by Internet Archive
Jul-Aug 1979, p. 7, WRL News