Bayard Rustin is finally getting his credit.
A mastermind behind 1963's March On Washington, Rustin was kept on the outskirts of the civil rights movement he helped build because he was an openly gay Black man. Now, he is getting the biopic treatment with Rustin, directed by George C. Wolfe, written by Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black (Milk), and starring Colman Domingo in the title role.
"I think Bayard Rustin's story is an inspiring one to me because it shows the interconnectedness between the Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the Queer Liberation Movement in the United States," Black recently told A.frame. "Bayard was very active in one, and later in life, would become more active in the other."
The March on Washington proved instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In later year, Rustin turned to LGBTQ+ activism, bringing the AIDS crisis to the attention of the NAACP. In 2013, three decades after his death, President Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"He was always queer, and he was always open about that," Black said. "We're talking about in the '40s, '50s, '60s, when that was revolutionary just to be accepting of himself and to be in gay relationships that he was not secretive about in the company of the greatest names in the Civil Rights Movement. Including Martin Luther King, who absolutely knew that Bayard was a gay man — and originally did push him away for that — and came to accept him for that."
Rustin is directed by George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) and also stars Chris Rock as NAACP director Roy Wilkins, Audra McDonald as activist Ella Baker, and Aml Ameen as Martin Luther King Jr. Barack and Michelle Obama's Higher Ground serve as executive producers.
See the first photo of Domingo as Rustin, alongside the actual photo of Rustin in 1963, below.
Though the biopic focuses on events of the past, Black hopes that Rustin's story will inspire action today. "I find it an incredibly moving story, and important right now, because [we need to] build those coalitions between groups that might be very different but both believe we ought to be able to be ourselves with all of our differences, and have that not just celebrated but protected," he explained. "We have to step up for our brothers and sisters and other civil rights movements if we want to keep our own rights."
Rustin is scheduled to release in 2023, marking the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington.