bayard rustin higher ground colman domingo
Left: civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin visits Freedom House with Dr. Eugene Reed in 1964 (via Library of Congress). Right: Actor Colman Domingo, who will play Rustin. (Raul Romo)
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Chris Rock will play activist Roy Wilkins, with Glynn Turman as A. Philip Randolph and Audra McDonald as Ella Baker.

“Rustin” tells the story of charismatic, gay, civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who overcame an onslaught of obstacles, and altered the course of American history by organizing the 1963 March on Washington.

George C. Wolfe directed and co-wrote the film with Dustin Lance Black. Wolfe previously directly “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. Executive producers include Higher Ground’s Mark R. Wright and Alex G. Scott.

Actors from “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” join cast of “Rustin”

Rustin is the first feature film that Higher Ground is producing.  Higher Ground presented the hit 2021 Netflix film, “Fatherhood”, starring Kevin Hart, and the critically acclaimed Netflix film “Worth”, starring Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci and Amy Ryan.

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Notably, Colman Domingo, the lead actor, has previously starred in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, “Zola”, “Candyman”, “Euphoria”. He’ll be joined by Chris Rock, playing activist Roy Wilkins.

Glynn Turman, who also acted in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” will play activist A. Philip Randolph. Lastly, Audra McDonald, who acted as Aretha Franklin’s mother in the biopic “Respect.”

About Bayard Rustin

Born in West Chester, Pennsylvannia in 1912, Rustin would write poems and play football. When he once told his mother he preferred men to women, she reportedly responded “I suppose that’s what you need to do.”

He would go on to become one of the most influential civil rights organizers in U.S. history, heavily influenced by his pacifist Quaker roots.

Notably, Rustin influenced Dr. King’s understanding of Ghandi and nonviolent-direct action.

He planned the 1963 March on Washington, but remained in the shadows out of fear that his sexuality would compromise support for the movement. If Dr. King represented the face of the civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin represented a major lieutenant.

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A Barack and Michelle Obama production

When ministers wanted Dr. King to dismiss Rustin due to his sexuality, he refused.

At the 1963 march, Rustin famously demanded “effective civil rights legislation — no compromise, no filibuster — and that it include public accommodations, decent housing, integrated education, [fair employment], and the right to vote.”

Higher Ground, founded by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, is focused on telling the stories that embody the values the Obamas have championed throughout their lives. Higher Ground produces scripted films, TV series, children’s programs and documentaries exclusively with Netflix, and podcasts exclusively with Spotify.  Its first release American Factory won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and its first podcast, The Michelle Obama Podcast, was the biggest Spotify Original in history.

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