About Rustin

RUSTIN IS A 2023 American biographical drama film directed by George C. Wolfe, from a screenplay by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black, and a story by Breece about the life of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, the film stars Colman Domingo in the title role, alongside Chris Rock, Glynn Turman, Aml Ameen, Gus Halper, CCH Pounder, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Johnny Ramey, Michael Potts, Jeffrey Wright and Audra McDonald.

A 2003 PBS documentary on Rustin, “Brother Outsider,” helped bring him back to public attention.

This review by Joel Geier, a participant in the movement during the events depicted in the new movie, discusses some of the left-socialist politics that provided the orientation and backbone of the organizing efforts. His article “Socialists Organized in the 1950s Civil Rights Movement” discusses how socialists supported the civil rights movement.

Further background can be found in the following sources.

“The Prophet Gone Astray,” Peter Drucker’s Against the Current review of John D’Emilio’s biography Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin. For the “Shachtmanites’” history see Drucker’s political study Max Shachtman and His Left: A Socialist’s Odyssey Through the “American Century”which was reviewed by David Finkel.

Tom Kahn’s journey to the right wing of social democracy and an architect of AFL-CIO pro-imperialist foreign policy is a complex tragic story beyond the scope of this movie or review. His longtime friend Rachelle Horowitz discussed his life in an essay.

January-February 2024, ATC 228

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