Because he was GAY ….
So why have you never heard about Bayard Rustin in history class?
Bayard Rustin was an activist, teacher and administrator who played a key role in the Civil Rights movement — he acted as a secretary to Dr Martin Luther King, helped organise the Freedom Rides and bus integration protests, and was the key organiser for the 1963 March on Washington, at which King gave his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.
Because Bayard Rustin was gay.
In 1953, he was arrested in Pasadena, California for having consensual sex in a parked car with two male partners. He was initially charged with vagrancy and lewd conduct: the charges were later altered to a lesser count of ‘sex perversion’, to which he pleaded guilty. After his conviction, he was asked to leave the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the pacifist Civil Rights organisation that he worked for, and was later shunned or encouraged to take a behind-the-scenes role by many members of the movement (it’s important to remember that this may not have been completely due to the homophobia of the other civil rights leaders — they were acting under the fear of being smeared or blackmailed by right-wing opposition). Nevertheless, he managed to live through this stigma, and spent the rest of his life working for both African-American and gay civil rights.
Read more and find links to follow at the Secret Histories Project.