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The urgency of peaceful protest

Elizabeth Cobbs, the Melbern G. Glasscock chair in American history, discusses how holding the moral high ground is crucial to advancing a cause in her op-ed for The Washington Post.

Headshot of Elizabeth Cobbs

Elizabeth Cobbs

The United States has benefited from a six-decade decline in racial tension, now threatened by recent events. Progress has been uneven, and in law enforcement tragically minimal, but real gains were made through nonviolent protest. While he is less well known than other civil rights leaders, pacifist Bayard Rustin deserves much credit for steering our nation away from its entrenched history of racial oppression. He modeled and promoted the most effective methods of resistance.

One question raised by the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd — and the uprisings they sparked — is: “What would Bayard Rustin do?”

Nicknamed “Bye,” Rustin organized the 1963 March on Washington and advised the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the nonviolent techniques that led to generational breakthroughs. Raised outside Philadelphia, Rustin was influenced by Pennsylvania’s Quaker traditions, personified by his Quaker grandmother, who was the first family member to accept him as gay.

Read the full op-ed at The Washington Post.