Review of A Song for the Unsung: Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the 1963 March on Washington

A Song for the Unsung: Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the 1963 March on Washington A Song for the Unsung: Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the 1963 March on Washington
by Carole Boston Weatherford and Rob Sanders; illus. by Byron McCray
Primary, Intermediate    Holt    40 pp.
11/22    9781250779502    $19.99
e-book ed. 9781250906106    $10.99

This necessary backstory of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom illuminates the significant role played by activist Bayard Rustin in that immensely successful event. Born in 1912, Rustin was raised by his grandmother on Quaker values of nonviolence and awareness of injustices suffered by fellow African Americans. In later years, he “put his feelings about equality and pacifism into action.” Undeterred in his resolve, he was beaten, arrested, and jailed for refusing to give up his seat on a bus or to fight in World War II. Upon his return from India, where he traveled to learn about nonviolent protest from Gandhi’s followers, he introduced the philosophy to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It became the strategy that anchored the civil rights movement. Although rebuked and sidelined because he was gay, Rustin remained committed to his personal cause of equality for all. Weatherford and Sanders’s engaging and fluid narrative is accentuated with titles of protest songs, alluding to Rustin’s love of music and its importance in the civil rights movement. Acrylics in bold, vibrant colors with collage elements convey the quiet, unassuming demeanor of Rustin as well as the triumphant spirit of the March on Washington. Back matter includes a timeline, information on music and peaceful protests, a copy of the official program, and references.

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Pauletta Brown Bracy
Pauletta Brown Bracy is professor of library science at North Carolina Central University. She is chair of the 2015-2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards committee and serves on the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards committee.

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