In conjunction with a profile and extended interviews in Vanity Fair (conducted prior to the SAG strike), Netflix has released several new images of Rustin, from DGA Award and five-time Tony Award-winning director George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and starring Emmy Award winner Colman Domingo (Euphoria) in the titular role of Bayard Rustin, the openly gay Black civil rights leader responsible for orchestrating the historic 1963 March on Washington and personal confidante and advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr.
The film features an all-star cast including Emmy and Grammy Award winner Chris Rock, Emmy Award winner Glynn Turman, Aml Ameen, Gus Halper, CCH Pounder, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Johnny Ramey, Michael Potts, with Emmy Award and Tony Award winner Jeffrey Wright and Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award winner Audra McDonald.
Born in 1912, Bayard Rustin was a visionary civil rights activist who was a close advisor to the Rev. Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
“He was this big thinker and an incredible organizer, and he was influential to not only Dr. King, but all these other young people as well,” Domingo says (in an interview with Vanity Fair completed prior to the SAG Strike.) “We owe a lot to Bayard Rustin. I think it’s part of my mission to make sure that hopefully, come this fall, there will never be that question again, who Bayard Rustin was.”
A staunch proponent of non-violent protest, in part due to his Quaker upbringing, Rustin was the
driving force behind organizing the historic March on Washington in 1963. He worked with a number of
groups through the years including serving as president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a civil rights
organization in New York City, from 1966 to 1979. Of Rustin, King wrote to a colleague: “We are
thoroughly committed to the method of nonviolence in our struggle and we are convinced that Bayard’s
expertness and commitment in this area will be of inestimable value.”
“He is a role model for what it means to be an American, what it means to daily, moment-to-moment, commit to democracy, commit to freedom, commit to possibility, commit to discovery, commit to passing on that which you know to other people,” Wolfe told Netflix in an interview conducted earlier this year. “Democracy is a muscle, and if you don’t exercise it regularly, it ceases to function.”
Later in life Rustin turned his attention to LGBTQ+ activism and its intersection with the continuing civil
rights fight, and was the first to bring the AIDS crisis to the attention of the NAACP. He passed away in
Because he was a gay man who was forced to live with the constraints and prejudices of the time—
including beatings and arrests—his role in the movement was not widely publicized and thus the true
significance of his contribution has been muted. He received recognition in 2013 when he was
posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.
Rustin is written by Julian Breece and Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black (Milk) based on a story by Breece and is produced by Academy Award winner Bruce Cohen, with Higher Ground’s Tonia Davis, George C. Wolfe. Higher Ground’s Barack & Michelle Obama, Mark R. Wright, Alex G. Scott, David Permut, Daniel Sladek and Chris Taaffe are executive producers.
Netflix will release the feature film Rustin in select theaters on November 3 and stream globally
on November 17, 2023, marking the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington.
All photos by David Lee/Netflix unless noted