Just one year after receiving a posthumous pardon for gay sex crimes, Civil Rights icon Bayard Rustin is getting his own biopic, produced by former President Barack Obama and Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that Obama’s production company Higher Ground–co-owned with former First Lady Michelle Obama–will produce Rustin for Netflix films. Openly gay, African-American director George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the original Broadway production of Angels in America) will direct the film from a script by Black.
No casting or release dates have been announced. [Note to Mr. Wolfe, please get Billy Porter on the phone.]
Bayard Rustin played a crucial role in the American Civil Rights movement, both for people of color and LGBTQ folk. In 1963, Rustin spearheaded the African-American March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rustin also advised on the Montgomery Bus Boycott, another crucial protest led by King. Historians and friends of Dr. King often cite Rustin as one of his closest, most influential advisors. Unfortunately, the two parted company in 1964 after King learned of Rustin’s homosexuality. King feared that having an unapologetic, gay man among his ranks would harm the over-all efficacy of the Civil Rights Movement.
Following his work with King, Rustin went on to have a long career in politics and activism, advocating for labor unions, decrying discrimination in the US and abroad, and in the 1980s, helping to maintain the gay rights movement amid the growing AIDS crisis. He died in 1987, leaving behind his life partner Walter Naegle and a legacy of Civil Rights work. In 2013, President Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which Naegle accepted on his behalf.