#Schools

A Maryland Elementary School Is Naming Itself After Gay Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin

Bayard Rustin is getting another school named after him.

While there is already a Bayard Rustin High School in Wester Chester, Pennsylvania (his home town), there’s always room for more schools named after the Civil Rights hero.

The Montgomery County Board of Education has recently announced that their new elementary school in Rockville, Maryland will be named after Rustin.

If you don’t know him, Bayard Rustin was a close advisor and friend of Martin Luther King. In fact, it was Rustin who largely organized and designed the 1963 March on Washington.

Rustin was so committed to the cause that he submitted to working behind the scenes in an attempt to prevent his sexuality from derailing the project. This was after Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. threatened to spread the lie that Rustin and King were gay lovers, and King then tried to distance himself from Rustin.

As reported by Bethesda Magazine, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted 6-2 to name their new school after the civil rights leader. They chose Rustin over other notable educators, slaves-turned-religious leaders, abolitionists, and civil rights leaders like Mary McLeod Bethune, Lillian Brown, Josiah Henson, and Emily Catherine Edmonson.

Of course, there are many who oppose naming an elementary school after Rustin and state that it will lead to uncomfortable conversations between parents and their children. That said, others have argued that Rustin was more than just a black, gay man, he was an activist and social leader.

"My husband and I are very passionate about this,” Mark Eckstein Bernardo, father of 6-year-old twins, told NewNowNext. “Not only because we are gay parents, but also because we have a first-grader who will be attending this brand new school this fall.”

Jamie Griffith, a Montgomery Blair High School student also praised the school name while testifying before the board:

"As a queer student, even in a progressive area, I was raised in a society that still attaches shame to my identity,” said Griffth, “A Bayard Rustin Elementary School is not only a well-deserved homage to a civil rights leader and hero, but a way to break stigma and give hope to future students who no longer have to feel trapped in the closet.”

Board member Jill Ortman-Fouse also shared that the school’s new name shows that “no matter what your background is, no matter who you love, you are a part of the [Montgomery County Public School] family.”

Bayard Rustin Elementary will open its doors in Rockville, Maryland this September.