President Barack Obama on Thursday announced that Dr. Sally Ride
and Bayard Rustin are among the 16 people whom he will award a
Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Ride, the first American woman in space, passed away last July at
the age of 61 after losing a prolonged 17-month battle with
pancreatic cancer. She also held the distinction of being the
youngest American in space and the first lesbian, though she never
spoke about her private life in public.
Rustin will also receive his medal posthumously.
Rustin was a leading activist of the early civil rights movement.
He helped initiate a 1947 Freedom Ride challenging racial segregation
on interstate buses and was the main organizer of the 1963 March on
Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was also gay.
“Bayard Rustin's contributions to the American civil rights
movement remain paramount to its successes to this day,” said
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the
nation's largest LGBT advocate. “His role in the fight for civil
rights of African-Americans is all the more admirable because he made
it as a gay man, experiencing prejudice not just because of his race,
but because of his sexual orientation as well.”
“Bayard Rustin dedicated his life to advocating for fairness and
equality and overcame prejudice to help move our nation forward,”
The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor the nation can bestow on
a civilian. The president will present the award at a White House
ceremony later this year.