‘Rustin’ True Story: Did Bayard Date Tom Kahn & Elias Taylor In Real Life?


Rustin, directed by George C. Wolfe, reiterated the fact that freedom does not come for free, and the sacrifices made by revolutionaries in any freedom movement around the globe serve as a testimony to the above-mentioned statement. It also served as an ode to a selfless man who was one of the most prolific leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States of America. Bayard Rustin was dedicated to his cause, and history tells us that he was given much less credit than he actually deserved. Bayard was inspired by the teachings of the great Mahatma Gandhi, and it always fascinated him how a single man could cause such an impact without even raising a finger. He had read about Mahatma Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience Movement and how he had orchestrated the Dandi march, where hundreds of people walked with him. Bayard believed that if he was able to achieve that feat in the United States of America, then it would greatly benefit his cause. However, organizing such a huge campaign was not an easy task because he himself did not enjoy the kind of popularity that Mahatma Gandhi enjoyed in India. Bayard knew that he would need to have certain key players by his side if he wanted this “March on Washington Movement” to be successful, and so he began talking to the union leaders, and that’s when he realized that not only would he have to deal with the ghosts of his past, but he would also have to face many hardships and challenges to make his dream of the biggest march in human history come true.

Is It Based On A True Story?

Rustin is based on an absolutely true story, though there have been certain creative liberties taken by the makers. There were certain aspects of Bayard Rustin’s life that the director, George C. Wolfe wanted to bring to light, and for that purpose, he created certain fictional characters and conflicts so that people could visually see the kind of struggle the protagonist had to face back in the day. Apart from the little details here and there, the narrative portrays unadulterated reality. The director wanted us to know how Bayard Rustin never craved the limelight, and he never asked for credit, even for the work he did. For Rustin, his cause was paramount, and the man wanted the people of his community to be treated fairly in life. History is written by victors, but this one time, the victor, the man who should have rightfully taken credit for everything, took a step back, as he couldn’t ask for a greater reward than equality and freedom from years of oppression. Almost 50 years after Bayard Rustin organized the march, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of freedom.

Did Powell And Wilkins Oppose The March In Real Life?

The characters of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (a member of the US House of Representatives), played by Jeffrey Wright, and Roy Wilkins (the executive director of the NAACP), played by Chris Rock, are inspired by real-life people. Both of them had their own agendas, and they were against Rustin at one point in time for different reasons. Adam Clayton threatened Bayard Rustin that he would tell the people that Rustin was a homosexual and, and secondly, that he had an illicit relationship with Martin Luther King Jr. Adam knew that he was standing on slippery ground and that the march could adversely impact his political career, which is why he was vehemently against it. We saw that during the course of his tenure, from the FBI to such politicians, a lot of people threatened Bayard Rustin to bring his past to light. In the year 1953, Bayard was apprehended by the police in Pasadena, California on the grounds of being involved in “lewd activity.” We are talking about a day and age when even people from the LQBT community were brainwashed to believe that they were committing a sin, and Adam Clayton knew that he could use it to blackmail Rustin and make him act in accordance with his wishes. Roy Wilkins’ stand was a bit different. He had no problems as such with the march, but he didn’t want Rustin to be the face of the movement since he knew about his communist affiliations in the past. Roy despised communists, but he wasn’t left with much of an option when Martin Luther King Jr. came on board, and he decided that the NAACP would be a part of the momentous event.

Are Tom Kahn And Elias Taylor Based On Real-Life People?

Though Tom Kahn’s character is based on a real person, Elias Taylor was a fictional character solely created for the film. Rustin did have an affair with Tom Kahn, though it didn’t last for a very long time. As far as we have researched, Tom was extremely embarrassed by the fact that he was gay, and he himself believed it to be some kind of disease that he needed to get rid of. On the other hand, Rustin was very open about his sexual orientation, and he never tried to hide it from the public, which at times landed him in a lot of trouble. Probably, their conflicting ideologies were one of the reasons they decided to part ways.

Did Rustin actually clean the National Mall?

Bayard Rustin, as we said in the beginning, wasn’t a part of the movement because he craved the limelight, or he wanted to become famous. He was very happy to take the back seat as long as he knew that the fire burned inside the souls of the people. At the end of the film, we see that Rustin was asked by Wilkins and others to come with them for the meeting with the president since he was the person who had envisioned it all. But Bayard decided to stay back, and it is true that he worked with the volunteers and didn’t leave before he had left the entire National Mall cleaner than before. That was the kind of man Rustin was. He showed the path to leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., and therefore Bayard’s contribution to the historic Civil Rights Movement cannot be undermined. Had it not been for him, history wouldn’t have been created, and as Martin Luther King Jr. told him, one had to be really insane to be able to have the kind of determination that Rustin had and believe that such an audacious plan could be executed in reality.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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