“Rustin”: Bayard Rustin and MLK’s Most Important Speech


Remembered that old Pete Seeger song today…..

“What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine?”

Watching “Rustin,” a film about Bayard Rustin, who pulled together the 1963 March on Washington – that unprecedented gathering where MLK Jr. gave his “I have a Dream” speech – a reminder again about all the things we didn’t learn in school. Thinking back, it wasn’t so much indoctrination as simply incomplete education.

It was only after school days that we learned – reading for ourselves – about Tulsa, Jim Crow, black and white water fountains, red-lined neighborhoods, voter suppression, etc. The Civil Rights Era gave us more learning than a pile of textbooks ever had.

“Rustin” captures the energy, the singular focus that made the ‘63 March a signal moment in our history, but you come away too remembering the dominating performance of Colman Domingo as Rustin. He carries the film, steals every scene, and in his face and bodily movements reveals the triumph and sorrow of a singular life.

If I’m voting at Oscar time, I’d still choose Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer, but could easily vote Domingo. Two stories, two lives so critical in our history – two performances that give them vivid life.

And yes, in the end life is learning and unlearning – far beyond what we were taught in school.

As Pete sang……..

“I learned that Washington never told a lie
I learned that soldiers seldom die
I learned that everybody’s free
And that’s what the teacher said to me”

Mike James
Mike James
Mike James was a long-time anchor newscaster at KING TV.


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