Henderson photographed Bayard Rustin when he was in Baltimore protesting the Jim Crow admission policy at Ford’s Theatre. The protest lasted seven years and attracted Civil Rights advocates such as Rustin and Paul Robeson, as seen in other Henderson photographs.
Bayard is mostly recognized for organizing the 1963 March on Washington and being a close advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. Not only was Rustin fighting for his rights as an African American in America, but he was also fighting for his right to live an openly gay lifestyle. To find out more about Rustin, visit the site of a documentary on Rustin at Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin at rustin.org. There is a great trailer for the documentary on the home page.
A cropped version of Henderson’s photograph ran in the Afro-American newspaper on October 29, 1949 with the following caption:
Bayard Rustin, who spent 22 days on the North Carolina chain gang for refusal to obey the jim crow travel laws, is shown as he joined the NAACP picket line at Ford’s Theatre, last week, in protest of its policy of segregation. This is the fourth season of the NAACP’s picketing in Baltimore. Shown left to right, are Mrs. Bowen Jackson and Mr. Rustin.
The FBI investigated Rustin for his alleged ties to the Communist Party. The documents can be viewed through the FBI Records Vault. FBI documents on other Civil Rights activists can also be viewed.