This brief documentary about the legendary Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin from filmmaker Matt Wolf doesn’t undertake to tell the detailed story of one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s mentors, as it is more a tribute to him by Walter Naegle his partner for ten years at the time of his death in 1987. When the two men met in NY Naegle was 28 years old and Bayard was 65, but the pair were inseparable from that moment, and they quickly started to live together.
Bayard have never kept his homosexuality quiet from anyone at anytime even though it was illegal, and the fact that it even got him arrested a couple of times. Equally important was the fact that it made many in the Civil Rights movement very uncomfortable, and there was often a concerted effort to exclude Bayard from the inner circle during his lifetime, and not to fully acknowledge his legacy even after his death. However the record speaks for itself, and he was the one that Dr. King chose to organize the historic March on Washington in 1963.
This intimate portrait narrated by Naegle also acknowledges Rustin’s contribution to the Gay Rights Movement which frankly has been all but forgotten by many. He also tells the funny tale that without the possibility of any legal recognition of their partnership, Rustin insisted on officially adopting Naegle, much to the consternation of the City’s Child Welfare Department who had to oversee the legal process, which then guaranteed Naegle his rights after Rustin died.
In 2013 President Obama would go on to posthumously award Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award in the United States for his contributions to civil rights. This wee film helps keep the important legacy of Rustin alive too