Copy of oil painting by artist P. Pamela Patrick ” as provided by Genesis
Bayard Rustin (1912-1987)
Bayard Rustin High School opened in September 2006. Our school is named after Bayard Rustin, a 1932 graduate of West Chester High School (later named B. Reed Henderson). Student population is 1320 students in grades 9 -12.
Born in West Chester and raised by a Quaker grandmother, Bayard Rustin was a 1932 graduate of what was then West Chester High School and later became West Chester Henderson High School. He was the first person named to the Henderson Hall of Fame.
Best known as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington at which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, Mr. Rustin first counseled Dr. King during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. At that time, he introduced Dr. King to the theory and practice of non-violence. He devoted his life to the struggle for human rights. By his death in 1987, he had earned the praise of three presidents (Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan), been honored with numerous human rights awards, and received at least 15 honorary degrees from prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Yale, and Brown.
The path his life would take was set during his teenage years, when he conducted sit-ins at segregated restaurants and theatres in West Chester. A track and football star, he also opposed discriminatory treatment of high school athletes, insisting on equal accommodations during out-of-town athletic contests. He was an outstanding student and the first African American to win the high school’s D. Webster Meredith Speaking Contest for Boys.
His involvement in the Civil Rights movement in this country began with buses in 1947. In later life, he traveled widely throughout the world on human rights causes ranging from India’s fight for independence to the plight of refugees fleeing southeast Asia.
Rustin was an international figure and one of the most famous graduates of the West Chester Area School District. In naming the new high school after him, the district recognizes his contribution to human rights throughout the world.