Speaker discusses civil rights activist’s life

Katie Huntley

Civil rights activist Norman Hill presented “The Legacy of Bayard Rustin: From Protest to Politics” yesterday in the Student Center.

Hill spoke to a room mixed with faculty and students to reveal the driving force behind Rustin’s activism. As he talked about the life, protests and political action of Rustin, Hill explained the four basic principles Rustin dedicated his life to.

“Bayard Rustin was committed to and motivated by society, especially the relationship between economic well-being and pursuing freedom,” Hill said. “He was committed to coalition building, self-liberation and mass action. And he used these principles to directly address racial equality and economic justice without violence.”

During their time in the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Rustin and Hill organized a 1963 march on Washington, D.C. for jobs and freedom from discrimination.

“The civil rights movement needed to gauge in political action and elected officials needed to be confronted,” Hill said.

Public education was another constant struggle for the pair.

“Bayard Rustin was for black studies at colleges and universities as part of an integral curriculum,” Hill said. “He thought that it was critically important that students welcome and appreciate black studies programs.”

This gave Hill an incentive to speak at Kent State.

“Hopefully students, as a part of their education, experience and gain knowledge of how to build and sustain movements, understand economic problems and injustice and be politically savvy,” he said. “I hope to generate a meaningful response here.”

As a friend and fellow activist of Rustin, Hill said he feels compelled to share the legacy of a person who had such an effect on his life.

“I feel I owe Bayard Rustin an enormous debt,” Hill said. “He was an outstanding civil rights leader, black leader and black American. Bayard Rustin is my inspiration.”

Dean of the Library Mark Weber said Hill was active in the civil rights movement during the time of Martin Luther King, Jr. Also, Rustin was a mentor of Hill’s. The purpose of the speech was to acknowledge Rustin’s involvement in civil rights movements that is often overlooked.

“His legacy is almost entirely forgotten among students,” Weber said. “I asked (Hill) to speak because I wanted to revisit this really important person on the struggle for social justice.”

Weber said Libraries and Media Services sponsored the event not only because of the important message, but because of the significant effect Hill has had on him.

“I’ve always admired Norman Hill,” Weber said. “He always spoke not for the ‘talented tenth’ but for black workers.”

Contact libraries and information services reporter Katie Huntley at [email protected].