Obamas’ Production Company Preps Drama About Gay Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images/AP Photo/Ron Frehm, File
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images/AP Photo/Ron Frehm, File

Actor Colman Domingo is set to star in Netflix’s Rustin — a film about civil and gay rights activist and socialist Bayard Rustin. The film will mark the first narrative feature to go into production from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground.

Rustin, who was posthumously awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama in 2013, will now have a biopic made about him.

In his youth, Rustin was a member of the Young Communist League (the youth branch of the Communist Party USA). HIs ties to the Communist Party eventually got him investigated by the FBI, after he became a well-known leader of the civil rights movement, reports the Washington Post.

The activist later became the chairman of Social Democrats USA — formerly known as the Socialist Party, but changed its name in 1972, as they believed the term “socialist” had “become hopelessly identified in the public mind with the Communist world,” reports the New York Times.

FILE – In this Aug. 1, 1963, file photo, Bayard Rustin, leader of the March on Washington poses in New York City. California’s governor announced Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, that he is posthumously pardoning Rustin, a gay civil rights leader, while creating a new pardon process for others convicted under outdated laws punishing homosexual activity. (AP Photo/Eddie Adams, File)

Rustin is also known for having helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech — which is what the film will be focused on, according to its IMDb description.

The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, left, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., center, and Bayard Rustin, leaders in the racial bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., leave the Montgomery County Courthouse on Feb. 24, 1956. (AP Photo)

Playing opposite Domingo’s Rustin will be actor Chris Rock as onetime NAACP leader Roy Wilkins. Actor Glynn Turman will play activist and March on Washington co-organizer A. Philip Randolph, and actress Audra McDonald will portray civil rights activist Ella Baker.

The film will be directed by George C. Wolfe, and produced by Bruce Cohen — who won an Oscar for producing American Beauty — alongside Higher Ground’s Tonia Davis. Higher Ground’s Mark R. Wright and Alex G. Scott will executive produce.

In 2019, former President Obama announced that his Netflix venture with his wife and former first lady would focus on racial and class issues. The Obamas’ production company had teamed up with Netflix to release content for the streaming giant.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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