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The Honorable Byron Rushing

Massachusetts state representative Byron Douglas Rushing was born in New York City on July 29, 1942. His father, William Rushing, worked as a janitor in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. His mother, Jamaican native Linda Turpin, migrated to New York City working as a seamstress. The family moved to Syracuse, New York, where Rushing attended Madison Junior High. He was praised for his public speaking, and entered various oratorical contests. He also attended a youth summer camp, under the direction of the Universalist Unitarian Church, which taught world peace and cultural understanding by bringing various racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious groups together. Rushing attended this camp throughout high school.

In 1960, Rushing graduated from Syracuse Central High School. Members of the Quaker church whom he met at his summer youth camp invited him to participate in another youth summer program operated by the American Friends Service Committee. Rushing was able to travel through Eastern and Western Europe. In the fall of 1960, Rushing attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the end of his junior year, Rushing decided to postpone his studies and fully dedicate his efforts to the Civil Rights Movement. He returned to Syracuse to work with the local chapter of CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] tackling issues of employment integration and police brutality.

Rushing moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1964 to work for the Northern Student Movement. He operated programs of youth tutoring, and voter education and registration. During this time, Rushing volunteered for various programs involving the Episcopalian church, his religious faith. He was hired by St. John's Church to set up a community information center. The Massachusetts Council for Churches then hired Rushing to establish a community organizing project called Roxbury Associates. It was at Roxbury Associates that Rushing met his first wife, Andrea Benton.

From 1967 to 1969, Rushing worked as an orderly at Rochester General Hospital. In 1969, Rushing returned to Boston as the Director of the Urban Change program for the Urban League. Between 1972 and 1985, he worked as president of the Museum of Afro-American History. As president, he helped raise money for the purchase and restoration of what was cited as the oldest African American church building in the United States, the African Meeting House.

In 1982, Rushing was elected as a representative of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He was the chief sponsor of the law to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public schools, and an original sponsor of the gay rights bill in Massachusetts. Rushing also led the Massachusetts state pension fund to launch community development investment of poor communities of Massachusetts. Rushing is an elected deputy to the General Convention of The Episcopal Church; a founding member of the Episcopal Urban Caucus; and serves on the boards of the Episcopal Women's Caucus and the Episcopal Network for Economic Justice.

Accession Number

A2006.013

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/8/2006

Last Name

Rushing

Schools

Syracuse Central High School

Madison Junior High School

Harvard University

P.S. 2 Morrisania School

Washington Irving Elementary School

First Name

Byron

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

RUS07

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Men May Not Get Everything They Pay For, But They Must Certainly Pay For Everything They Get.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

7/29/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pork

Short Description

Museum director and state representative The Honorable Byron Rushing (1942 - ) has sponsored civil rights and community development legislation in Massachusetts since his election in 1982. Between 1972 and 1985, he worked as president of the Museum of Afro-American History.

Employment

Massachusetts House of Representatives

Museum of Afro-American History/Museum of African American History

Congress of Racial Equality

Northern Student Movement

St. John's Episcopal Church

Massachusetts Council of Churches

Center for Inner City Change

Rochester General Hospital

Favorite Color

Red

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of the Honorable Byron Rushing's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Byron Rushing lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Byron Rushing lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes her parents' professions

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls his parents' reunion

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes the neighborhood of Morrisania in the Bronx, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Bryon Rushing recalls places his mother took him as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Bryon Rushing remembers P.S. 2 Morrisania in the Bronx

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Bryon Rushing describes his baptism in the Presbyterian church

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Bryon Rushing describes his schools in Syracuse, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Bryon Rushing recalls teachers and friends who influenced him

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Bryon Rushing describes his neighborhood in Syracuse, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Bryon Rushing recalls how his mother faced employment discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Bryon Rushing recalls his experiences at Syracuse Central High School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Bryon Rushing recalls his parents' NAACP involvement

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls meeting Ralph Abernathy and Eleanor Roosevelt

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls his trip to Europe with the American Friends Service Committee

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls his decision to attend Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls how he became involved with CORE

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his work with CORE in Syracuse

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls CORE's demonstration against urban renewal

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Byron Rushing explains his work with CORE and the Northern Student Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his role at the Northern Student Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes the Community Voter Registration Project

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes Blue Hill Avenue's African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his work in Episcopal organizations

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes the Lower Roxbury Community Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Byron Rushing explains how he came to work for the Center for Inner City Change

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls working with Melvin King and Hubie Jones

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes the Museum of Afro-American History

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes the accomplishments of the Museum of Afro-American History

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls the archeological investigation of the African Meeting House

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes the Boston African American National Historic Site

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Byron Rushing reflects upon his achievements at the Museum of Afro-American History

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Byron Rushing explains his role at the Roxbury Historical Society

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls running for the Massachusetts House of Representatives

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes Boston's Ninth Suffolk District

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his roles in the Massachusetts House of Representatives

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his legislative work against the apartheid

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls creating Massachusetts' Burma Law

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls his work for marriage equality in Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his work to alleviate homelessness

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his family life

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls how Malcolm X changed his religious views

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Byron Rushing reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Byron Rushing gives advice to young African Americans

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Byron Rushing describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Byron Rushing narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

7$4

DATitle
The Honorable Byron Rushing recalls CORE's demonstration against urban renewal
The Honorable Byron Rushing describes his work to alleviate homelessness
Transcript
(Laughter) So, so we go out to find a place where they're tearing down some buildings. The only building--they're, they're not tearing down any houses on that particular day. They're tearing down a gasoline station. So we go to the gasoline station and, and we walk onto the site and we--and, and the workers just go berserk, right. They start yelling at us and start throwing things at us, and we tell 'em we have to close the whole thing down. We're, of course, nonviolent, and the police come. The police call up the urban renewal authority. The, the, the director and two or three other people of, of, of the urban renewal authority are in Washington [D.C.] because they went to the March on Washington (laughter) and so no one can get--so they--so the whole--so they tell the workers to go home and we have our big success. We close down (laughter)--and so we get all of this publicity and we have a big meeting inside CORE [Congress of Racial Equality]. There, there were a lot of people in the chapter who were mad at us. They think we didn't go about it in the right way. We didn't have enough discussion about doing this demonstration. And now we're sort of stuck 'cause we're now in the--we made the chapter be anti-urban renewal, right, and how are we gonna do all of this with just a bunch of volunteers? And when the school starts, they won't have the volunteers, right 'cause everybody will be in school. And they say--they, they turn to me and they say, "Why don't you stay instead of going down to Louisiana? Why don't you stay here, right, and you spend your year here working for us? And also, you have this big advantage, is that you won't be an outside agitator which was a big thing then, right, always accusing all the civil rights groups of being outside agitators. You're from Syracuse [New York]." So, I said okay and I spent a year working, running the chapter in Syracuse.$$Right. I see.$$I was their twenty-five dollars a week staff person.$$For the record, we should indicate what CORE stands for.$$CORE is the Congress of Racial Equality (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right.$$--which is an early civil rights organization--$$Back in the '40s [1940s].$$--I mean, which began in the '40s [1940s]--$$Yeah, yeah.$$--in the North based on Gandhian [Mahatma Gandhi] principles. And, and actually the word congress, they took because that's the word that Gandhi used for his political organization [Indian National Congress] was--in India was the--was a--was the congress. And that--and so--and this was the Congress of Racial Equal- Equality.$Now, on a--on a day to day basis, I have to spend a lot of time with the issues that relate directly to my constituency [from the 9th Suffolk District]. Now, sometimes those issues are very interesting issues and sometime--you know, and sometimes they're--and, and apply to other people and sometimes those issues just apply to the South End [Boston, Massachusetts] and, and, and everybody else would glaze over as I talk about the fact that we have flooding problems or that a good deal of the South End is built on filled in land and we're--and we're having problems with foundations of buildings and who should be responsible for that, but I get involved in that a lot. But on the other hand, as I said earlier, I'm very concerned that we have as good housing for poor and working class people as possible in, in, in our community. Now, I want that housing, a lot of that housing, to be in my district. But when I work for improving housing for poor and working class people, when I work for a, a housing trust fund set up by the state so there'll be money available for developing that kind of housing, I, of course, not just doing work for my own constituents, I'm doing work for that whole class of people throughout the state that need--that needs that. That has drawn me, though into what I consider one of the real disgraces of the United States and the--and cities in the United States, and that is homelessness. I mean, you and I can remember when there was no such word as homeless. We could--you can--I can remember when almost everybody had some place to live. We--our--we complained about the, the conditions with which we lived in but we usually didn't complain that they didn't have a roof at all, and that is something that has only happened in the past twenty years. And we don't--and we seem to be just--buy into it, taking it for granted, assuming it's gonna be with us forever, so we set the--we--so the issue becomes, we set up shelters and we try to make sure we have enough beds available for everyone who wants to come in off the street, right, but we're not saying, no. There was a time when this didn't exist and it doesn't need to exist now. So I've been spending a lot of time trying to reframe the question around homelessness and to move it from how to we take care of people who--in shelters and how do we have decent family shelters, get 'em out of--out of hotels and motels and into some kind of shelter where they can get some services when, when, when--but to move it away from that conversation which is an important conversation to the conversation of how do we end homelessness? How do we supply enough housing so that nobody has to be homeless, right? And I find that there are not a lot of people thinking that way. And so I've been working with people here and in other parts, in other states in the country, Wisconsin, Minnesota, who are coming up with working plans, really business plans on how to end homelessness. So I have legislation to establish a commission to come up with a working plan to end homelessness in Massachusetts, a plan that has benchmarks like any business plan, had--will know how much it would cost to do this, how long it would take, spending this amount of money to have this accomplished, and that's one of the things that I've been spending a lot of time on--$$Okay.$$--most recently.$$I'm gonna follow that initiative. I wanna watch it.$$That's good.