The 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech would never have happened if not for Bayard Rustin, the individual behind the conception, organization, and management of the event. Using straightforward prose, this engaging biography effectively describes how "troublemaker" Rustin, inspired by another troublemaker named Mohandas Gandhi, successfully organized peaceful protests against war, nuclear weapons, segregated schools, and housing and employment discrimination. He feared that his largest undertaking-his envisioned March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom-might get derailed due not just to political resistance, but also to personal attacks because he was gay. Other Black leaders, including King and John Lewis, supported Rustin, and the text details Rustin's extensive preparations: volunteers, advertising, travel arrangements, first-aid stations, free lunches, portable toilets, and education about nonviolent protest. The colorful, expressive illustrations align perfectly with the text and help convey the enormity of the 250,000-plus crowd that assembled that day. Back matter includes recommended reading and an author's note (Rustin and about 500 others meticulously cleaned up the entire parade route afterward to deter any accusations of disorder). This standard-length picture book thoughtfully addresses basic human rights and introduces young readers to an important behind-the-scenes hero.
— Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
A civil rights luminary finally gets his due.
The March on Washington is most widely remembered for Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech, but the event and its impact were a dream built by many whose names are criminally undercelebrated. This vital book broadens the narrative by introducing readers to Bayard Rustin, whose contributions to its success are sometimes downplayed or obscured. From the opening line of the book, Long's narrative lovingly presents Rustin's history of good troublemaking, starting with his first arrest for sitting in the White section of a movie theater in his hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania, to the influence of his mentor, A. Philip Randolph, who, with Rustin, came up with the idea for the 1963 March on Washington. The prose works in perfect harmony with Jackson's warmly colored, stunning illustrations, which present Rustin as a gifted, passionate visionary whose talents helped turn the march from a dream into an unprecedented success. This work's greatest contribution is its unflinching honesty in demonstrating the backlash Rustin faced for being gay, both from White America and his own Black colleagues within the movement, who felt that his sexuality would detract from its success.
A joyful tribute to the work of an important American hero. (author's note, information on Long's research) (Picture-book biography. 6-9)
— Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW