Many heroes are lost to time, but legends never die. Bayard Rustin isn’t a name people know as well as Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X. But much like his fellow Freedom Riders and speakers for justice, that kind of notoriety probably wouldn’t have interested Rustin all that much. Nevertheless, it’s a name we’ll all hopefully be getting more familiar with thanks to a new biopic from the ingenious mind of George C. Wolfe.
Wolfe, who previously directed Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, is writing and directing Rustin, with legendary actor Colman Domingo taking on the heavy task of portraying the civil rights leader who between 1941 and 1987 fought for the equality and justice of African Americans across the country. Rustin helped to organize the March on Washington, an act that forced President Roosevelt to officially ban the practice of discrimination of any kind in industries and federal agencies. He did all of this, mind you, whilst dealing with the internal and external conflicts that arise when one is a black, gay man in 1940s America. A struggle that never caused Rustin to question his beliefs, himself, or his cause.
Discrimination, homophobia, racism, and prejudice all still exist today. Even in a social climate that pushes ever valiant towards equality and understanding, there are still a good amount of “bad apples” around to taint the entire garden. That’s probably why Wolfe, who brought awareness to the hardships of African Americans in music with Ma Rainey’s, is tackling a story as deep and culturally relevant as Bayard Rustin’s.
Wolfe will team up with Netflix (the streamer previously released Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom last year) and writer Dustin Lance Black to bring Bayard Rustin’s legacy to the screen. Chris Rock will star alongside Domingo’s Rustin as Roy Wilkins; another prominent figure in the civil rights movement. Joining them are Audra McDonald (Respect) and Glynn Turman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom).
Rustin will be produced by Higher Ground, the production company founded by former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. The pair have striven to create and share stories that imbue the values that they’ve always upheld and display heroes that new and young generations can look up to. Previously, Higher Ground produced Fatherhood, starring Kevin Hart, and Worth, starring Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, and Amy Ryan. Both films are currently available to stream on Netflix.
No word yet on when we can expect to see more of Rustin, but keep an eye on the NOC for any upcoming news about the biopic.