Netflix has released a new biopic titled ‘Rustin’ that highlights the life and contributions of Bayard Rustin, an unsung hero of the civil rights movement. The film chronicles Rustin’s efforts to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. The movie, directed by George C. Wolfe, stars Colman Domingo as Rustin and Aml Ameen as King.
In ‘Rustin,’ viewers are taken through the exhaustive work that went into assembling the March on Washington, which saw the participation of over 250,000 people. Director George C. Wolfe emphasized the importance of documenting the level of organization and thoroughness required for such a monumental event, a detail that was important to former President Obama.
The movie also explores Rustin’s close friendship with Dr. King and the temporary distancing between the two after rumors of a love affair circulated in the media. J. Edgar Hoover, in particular, had an obsession with the private lives of Black leaders. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond denounced Rustin, bringing national media attention to his arrest record for having sex with two men in a parked car. However, King and other march organizers publicly defended Rustin’s character in a tearful scene.
Rustin’s romantic relationships with fellow activists Tom Kahn and a character named Elias Taylor are also portrayed in the film. While Kahn was a real person, Elias Taylor is a fictional character created to illustrate Rustin’s freedom and liberation in a time when many Black leaders remained closeted.
‘Rustin’ brings attention to the contributions of female civil rights leaders such as Ella Baker and Dr. Anna Hedgeman. The film raises questions about why more women were not allowed to speak at the march, highlighting the role of women organizers in significant movements such as the Montgomery bus boycott.
Colman Domingo delivers an impressive dramatic performance portraying NAACP leader Roy Wilkins. The film delves into Wilkins’ concerns about being associated with Rustin due to his sexuality and past ties to the Young Communist League.
Lastly, the movie briefly mentions Rustin’s talent as a singer and instrumentalist, as he had recorded several albums and even had a brief stint on Broadway in a musical called ‘John Henry.’