Bayard Rustin movie exploring lifetime of civil rights icon in improvement at Netflix

A biography of the pioneering gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin is in development at Netflix, the streaming giant announced on Thursday.

George C. Wolfe (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) will direct the film and Dustin Lance Black will write the script, the statement said. Black won an Oscar in 2008 for writing Milk, which told the story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

No cast has been announced for “Rustin”.

A description of the films states: “Rustin” tells the story of the charismatic gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who overcame an onslaught of obstacles and changed the course of American history by organizing the 1963 March in Washington. “

Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions will produce the film for Netflix.

President Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Rustin died in 1987.

Bayard Rustin (left) and Cleveland Robinson, chairman of the Washington March Administrative Committee, stand on 130th Street in Washington, DC in August 1963 to prepare for the March in Washington for Work and Freedom. Photo: Library of Congress.

Rustin was an advisor and mentor to Martin Luther King Jr., but was often forced to remain in the shadows by other leaders of the movement who disapproved of Rustin’s sexuality.

Rustin also worked with A. Philip Randolph, took part in the first Freedom Rides and fought for the integration of the unions.

Later in his life, Rustin was a gay rights attorney and testified on behalf of the New York state gay rights law.

Last year, Rustin was posthumously pardoned by California Governor Gavin Newsom for a more than 70-year “vagabond” conviction.

Rustin was arrested on January 21, 1953 in Pasadena and convicted of “vagabond” for violating a moral offense often used to discriminate and criminalize LGBTQ and black communities, but which was overturned.

Rustin was also gay at a time when homosexuality was not only classified as a mental illness, but was also illegal in many parts of the nation. Members of the LGBTQ community have been persecuted under various moral codes in many states, including California.

Rustin was arrested for having consensual sex with two white men in a parked car, but the white men were not arrested. After his arrest, Rustin was convicted, served 50 days in prison and had to register as a sex offender.

Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis will produce “Rustin” for Higher Ground Productions. Oscar winner Bruce Cohen (“American Beauty”) will also produce with Black.

Black also wrote Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar ”and in 2017 created the miniseries“ When We Rise ”.

Wolfe is a five-time Tony Award winner.

The Obamas’ Higher Ground has partnered with Netflix to release a number of films and series, including Exit West, Satellite, Tenzing and The Young Wife. The company is also behind Netflix’s “Crip Camp,” which was shortlisted for the Oscars Documentary

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