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Column: ‘Rustin’ is the Film Your U.S. History Class Has Been Missing

Credits: People Magazine

The rediscovery of Bayard Rustin’s pivotal role in the civil rights movement, overshadowed for years due to his sexual orientation, highlights a significant gap in the historical narrative of both the Black and LGBTQ+ communities.

The 2003 documentary “Brother Outsider” initiated a shift towards recognizing Rustin’s contributions, further propelled by the 2023 film “Rustin” and Colman Domingo’s acclaimed portrayal.

Domingo’s nomination for a lead actor Oscar not only marks a milestone for Afro-Latino and LGBTQ+ representation but also underscores the importance of integrating these often marginalized stories into the broader tapestry of American history.

Rustin (Credits: Variety)

Rustin’s life and legacy, from organizing the March on Washington to mentoring Martin Luther King Jr., exemplify the intersectionality that has long existed but been less acknowledged within the struggle for equality and justice.

His story, along with those of other queer Black figures like James Baldwin, Alice Walker, and Ma Rainey, embodies the courage and resilience of individuals navigating multiple layers of discrimination.

The recent focus on these narratives in Hollywood, led by talents like Domingo, challenges the industry to look beyond conventional subjects to the rich, complex stories that have been relegated to the shadows.

This shift not only honors the contributions of LGBTQ+ and Black individuals to the fight for civil rights but also educates and inspires a broader audience.

As Hollywood continues to evolve, the hope is that it will delve deeper into the lives of historical figures like Rustin, whose stories offer invaluable lessons on bravery, resistance, and the ongoing struggle for recognition and equality.

The deliberate effort to bring these stories to light not only corrects historical oversights but also enriches our understanding of the past and its impact on the present and future.

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