Rustin (2023) Movie Script

[solemn music gently fades in]
[piano playing
"This Little Light of Mine" solemnly]
[music continues]
[music stops]
[woman] Things need to change
and change now.
[man] Which is why
we are staging a protest
at the Democratic National Convention.
[man 2]
And the Republicans are any better?
- We plan on challenging them as well.
- [distant phone ringing]
So you want me to lead
5,000 Negroes into Los Angeles
and disrupt the Democratic Convention?
I'm sorry. I'm not your man.
Who told you you are not our man?
Were you not our man
when you took command
of the Montgomery bus boycott
or spoke with such eloquence
the night your home was bombed?
You're conveniently forgetting
I'm now co-pastor of Ebenezer.
When C.L. first heard you speak,
he rang me and said,
"Bayard, there's magic
going on down here."
You know what he saw? A star.
And when that star starts to shine
brighter than any other,
including the most powerful Negro leaders
that came before,
they will do everything in their power
to extinguish your light
and put you in your place.
Mrs. Ella Baker,
I have received a number of calls
from prominent men within the movement
who see no wisdom in these protests.
Men with whom I share a strong kinship.
Not once you leave the room.
[softly] Friend, one of my greatest joys
is watching you rise.
We need you to lead us into Los Angeles,
where we will most vigorously let Kennedy
and the entire Democratic Party know
that unless they show up for our people,
take a stand against segregation,
our people will not show up for them.
- Hear! Hear!
- Yes! Yes! Yes!
[Bayard] Do this, Martin.
Own your power.
- [big band music playing]
- [chuckles]
I am pleased to announce
that my friend, Dr. Martin Luther King,
will be joining us in Los Angeles.
- Yes!
- Yes!
[swing music playing]
I'm telling you, the best grits ever.
Lest I remind you, I was born and raised
in Georgia. My mother was...
Try them.
- How's my beloved Coretta?
- Fine.
- And the kids?
- Missing you.
Every time I step through that house,
"How's Uncle Bayard?"
- Aw. [chuckles]
- "Where's Uncle Bayard?"
And those self-appointed noble Negroes
of the NAACP?
I can't wait to hear what they have to say
about us making a move on LA.
My convention, my party.
I've spent the past 15 years
fighting Dixiecrats in Congress,
going after and winning
on everything from poll taxes
to the right to piss
in the goddamn Congressional commode.
How dare his Black ass take aim
without first coming to me?
[man] Had King reached out,
would you have said yes?
Hell, no. That fighting son of a bitch
needs to keep down South where he belongs.
I blame Rustin.
Ever since the Montgomery bus boycott,
he's got King thinking
he's the second coming.
The hell with Bayard Rustin.
His attention-grabbing antics
are the exact opposite
of how policy is altered
and laws are changed.
[softly] And let's not mention
the unmentionable.
[Powell] No.
I say, say it.
Say it, I say, and say it loud!
Listen to me.
I am phoning
the good reverend doctor's office today.
If they don't call this shit off,
the world will know the truth
about Martin Luther King and his queen.
[inhales sharply]
And, baby, I do not mean Coretta.
Congressman Powell has done so much
for Harlem.
Almost as much as he's done for himself.
But this is a bold-faced lie,
and he knows it.
[man] I have to tell Martin. I have...
Yes, I'm well aware of the fact
that Martin is your boss
as well as your friend,
but at least let me speak
with Bayard first,
as this is certain
to disorder his soul most of all!
[laughing heartily]
Me and Martin?
[scoffs] No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Brothers, yes.
Besides, he's not my type.
[Randolph] Making threats,
talking about going to the white print...
Chief, Chief, you call it trouble.
I call it an opportunity.
In response
to Powell's reckless accusations,
I'll write a letter
tendering my resignation.
When Martin rejects it,
we will have forced him to see
who wishes him well and who does not.
- [Randolph] What makes you so sure?
- Hm.
- Be... Because I know Martin, sir.
- [Randolph] Bayard?
- Sir.
- [Randolph] You may know Martin, but...
- All will be fine.
- [music stops abruptly]
I assumed it would just be the two of us.
We thank you
for your many years of service.
[footsteps receding]
[door closes]
- [phone ringing]
- [typewriter tapping]
[dramatic sting plays]
[metal clanking]
- [stamping]
- [paper rustling]
- [metal clanking]
- [stamping]
[typewriter tapping]
[phone ringing]
[ringing continues]
- [phone clicks]
- [woman] War Resisters League.
[mellow jazz saxophone playing]
- [music continues]
- [siren wailing]
[breathing heavily]
["Shotgun" by Junior Walker
and The All Stars playing]
[crowd] Whoo!
[indistinct chattering]
- [door opens]
- Oh!
Excuse me.
- Hey! My brother.
- [man] Blyden.
- Hey!
- Hey!
- What's up, man?
- [man] What's up, man? Looking good.
Welcome to the party.
Good Lordy, Miss Claudia.
Goodness. I'm just gonna squeeze
right through here. [chuckles]
I tell you, man, I go south again,
it's gonna be with a gun in my hand
and Brother Malcolm in my heart.
Hey! What's up, man?
[woman] Bayard. Bayard.
Aw. [chuckles]
"For ne'er I saw a true beauty
till this night."
Are you talking to the vodka or me?
[both laugh]
[crowd] Whoo!
I take it there was some sort of protest?
Uh, it kinda got derailed,
so we invited everyone back here.
- Yeah!
- [man] Nice.
Obscure fact about Miss Ella Baker,
early champion of SNCC.
She's Al Capone when it comes to cards.
Tonk, Bid Whist, Crazy Eights. [laughs]
You're marvelous
and have absolutely no idea who I am.
Like you know what I know?
[softly] Ice.
Uh, who is that?
["Walking the Dog" by Rufus Thomas
playing next door]
Doors barricaded
tires slashed.
No escape.
Firebombs thrown inside.
Folks started screamin'.
I finally get out.
I'm on the ground.
This white man
takes this pipe
and hits me
over and over.
I'm so sorry.
Like we give a shit you sorry.
It's probably one of your uncles
or cousins with that pipe.
- I was raised in Brooklyn.
- Listening to this shit?
- Why would I have cousins in Alabama?
- White boy talking shit.
Tom isn't like that.
Bet you these two
are card-carrying members
of Martin-de-Lawd's nonviolence jamboree.
So let's play. I'll be the redneck.
Beat you so bad
your body starts to scream.
Beat you like they beat Tyrone.
Beat you till you're calling
for your mama.
Whoa, hey!
I'm the one
that's been preaching passive resistance
since before you were born.
- So hit me.
- Bayard, I can take care of myself.
The pacifist is opposed to using violence,
but must be prepared to receive it.
Only aim left.
A policeman in '42
already took care of the right.
[scoffs softly]
I hear when King said "git,"
you tucked your tail between your legs
and swished away.
You're irrelevant.
It's Friday night. I've been called worse.
[banging on door]
So, what are you gonna do?
Offering my face as a punching bag
to a would-be Sugar Ray wasn't enough?
I am talking about the party.
A party is hors d'oeuvres, laughter,
mambo for Latin lovers on the hi-fi.
Earlier today, a fight almost broke out.
It did not used to be like that.
And now it is like that all the time.
SNCC, CORE, the NAACP kids,
we're all fighting over agendas
and slogans and songs.
- And you know who's winning?
- Something tells me I'm about to find out.
Bull Connor in Birmingham,
Strom Thurmond on the Senate floor.
While we all snap and snarl
and eat each other alive.
- So, what are you gonna do?
- I already have a job.
Muste and I have worked together
off and on since I was in my twenties.
The man hates you because you possess
everything that he does not,
charm, passion, a goddamn pulse.
Tom, you've yet to learn it is unwise
to speak of that which you do not know.
Why don't you just admit
that you're still upset
over what happened
between you and Dr. King,
and so you will use any excuse,
including working a job that you hate
- Irrational.
- to avoid a cause that you love?
You're smart about some things,
not about everything.
I can have an opinion.
And when it comes to my life, my past,
especially as it relates to Martin,
I have the right to say, "Enough!"
[lighter clicks]
Last time I checked, that was illegal.
Last time I checked, so were we.
[jazz double bass solo playing]
[music stops]
- I've had an idea.
- Hm.
Wanna be my assistant again?
Of course.
Give me the Randolph/Truman '48 folder.
In that trunk over there.
Thirty years ago,
Gandhi walked to the sea,
picked up a handful of salt,
and inspired a movement
that brought down an empire.
The time has come for us to do the same.
[swing music playing]
We are going to put together
the largest peaceful protest
in the history of this nation.
How big?
One hundred thousand people.
Is he for real?
A massive two-day demonstration
with enough power to shut down
the White House and Capitol Hill.
Made up of angelic troublemakers
such as yourselves,
with ideas so bold, so inspiring,
their execution will demand all groups
draw tightly together and become one.
So, talk, shout, take command!
What if we flood the offices
of every member of the House and Senate
with delegates of the church,
labor, civil rights?
- And...
- And? And?
And such numbers the legislative branch
will cease to function.
Write it on the wall.
No, no. It is impossible to train
that many effective lobbyists...
No, no, no. Do not kill an impulse
before it's born.
What if they were constituents
from their respective states
who refused to leave
until they've been heard?
- Now that's collaboration.
- [all laugh]
- [Bayard] Write it on the wall.
- Why can't you be collaborative like Norm?
- I Shut up.
- [chuckles]
- Somebody didn't go home last night.
- Shut up. [chuckles]
Rachelle? How many bodies does it take
to surround the White House?
How many?
I thought that was a setup for a joke.
- You literally want me to find out?
- Yes!
Because on day two,
we shall surround the White House
Draw the White House on the board.
while serenading the president.
Ain't gonna let the president
Turn me around
Come on now.
Turn me around
Turn me around
Ain't gonna let the president
Turn me around
- I'm gonna...
- Keep on walking
Keep on talking
Come on now.
Marching up to freedom land
Well, what about sleeping arrangements?
DC only has so many Negro hotels.
How about tents? You know, like a...
A sea of tents, big and bold enough
to unify an entire movement.
- Give me that thing.
- [all laugh]
And near the Lincoln Memorial,
a stage where the head
of every civil rights organization
can be heard.
Why just the heads?
[all] Ooh!
[Bayard] More! More!
We're not done yet.
You know there's a lot we can do.
- Get the signatures. We'll follow up...
- Yeah.
That's a really good start.
I think we need to organize this
in a way that we all can
[music continues]
[music stops]
In '41, you called for a large-scale march
to protest discrimination
in the defense industry but then canceled.
No, Roosevelt acquiesced to our demands.
As did Truman in '48.
Executive Order 9981,
the end of segregation
in the armed forces.
- [spoon clinks]
- The time has come for another.
- No, Bayard.
- I can handle all the grunt work.
Building a grassroots operation,
rally the young.
But when it comes to the old guard
- Roy.
- Especially Roy.
I'm considered a pariah.
I need you.
Bayard, I can't.
If Lucille makes it to another summer...
We honor her
by doing the work we've always done.
The work the two of you did together.
[jazz music playing]
[phones ringing]
No matter what Roy says or does,
I need you to behave.
I do not have issues with Roy.
It's Roy who has issues with me.
But in deference
to both you and the cause,
I'll sit in the corner and smile.
After a day spent flooding the capital
and encircling the White House
so that the president of the United States
cannot get in or out of his own home,
our intrepid protesters
would retire to tents
which now cover the National Mall.
Chief, do you plan
on pulling this together yourself?
We all know there's only one person
who can organize an event of this scale.
I was under the impression
you were busy serving...
I mean, saving white people from the bomb.
- [scattered chuckling]
- I go where needed.
Chief, if memory serves me,
this is your third attempt.
- He did not say "attempt."
- Did you say something?
"Attempt" is hardly the word I'd use
to describe the actions of a man
who is single-handedly responsible
for integrating both the armed forces
and the defense industry.
- [man] Roy.
- [Roy] Yes, Medgar.
Most of our folks in Mississippi
have never been
outside of their hometowns,
so the opportunity to march
with people from all over
There it is.
will afford them the chance to discover
not only are they not alone
He gets it.
but are engaged in a struggle
far greater than they ever dreamed.
Thank you, Brother Evers.
Chief, what size crowd are you projecting?
One hundred thousand people.
- [murmuring]
- [man 2] It can't be done.
Mr. Wilkins, forgive me,
but that's impractical.
Elias here's from Alabama,
field organizer.
Perhaps you have facts
to substantiate your claims?
Previous DC demonstrations.
In 1913, 8,000 suffragettes,
in '26, 25,000 Ku Klux Klan,
and in 1932, 42,000 veterans marched
and were attacked with tear gas and tanks.
- [Roy] Who led the attack?
- The military.
- And the race of the veterans?
- White.
White boys.
Young man, your facts are correct.
Your sense of history is not.
Those 42,000 men marched on Washington, DC
because it was the Depression.
And after dutifully serving their country,
found themselves without jobs and homes
and food to feed their family.
And when they took to the streets
and were attacked,
the world did, in fact, bear witness.
Gandhi brought an empire
down to its knees...
Will someone please tell this man
that this is not India?
For decades, the NAACP
has been legally leading the charge,
and now you're proposing
100,000 Black folks invade Washington, DC.
- Have you talked to Martin about this?
- I lost his number. He lost mine.
Well, Dr. King, who hasn't lost my number,
has come to understand
that mass lobbying is sheer madness.
Brown v. Board is the crowning glory
of this organization,
yet all across the South,
when Negro children sleep,
they see "whites only" signs
instead of their dreams.
Counting on the courts
to eradicate racial inequity,
that's madness!
Mr. Randolph, you are a giant amongst men,
but when it comes to this,
the NAACP says no.
[door closes]
Now that Roy has made his position clear,
Dr. King's number,
which you have allegedly lost?
Go find it.
[footsteps receding]
- [buckle jingles]
- [footsteps approaching]
"When an individual is protesting
society's refusal
to acknowledge his dignity,
his act of protest
confers dignity on him."
- Why are you quoting me to me?
- You're an inspiration.
Inspiration untethered from action
loses all value.
Who said that?
- I did
- [zipper zips]
- just now.
- [toilet flushes]
- [opens tap]
- [water running]
Now, I agree with Mr. Evers.
Your idea has potential.
I would have spoken up,
but I didn't think it was my place.
[paper towels rustle]
It wasn't your place to voice support,
but it was yours to help tear it down?
Your march is possible without the NAACP,
but not without Dr. King.
And Mr. Wilkins knows it.
Elias Taylor.
Looked like you was about to ask.
I was about to ask something,
but it wasn't that.
- I was warned. [chuckles]
- [chuckles]
Well, whatever you wanna say,
you just say it.
- Doesn't everyone?
- No.
No, most people are
modest, cautious, afraid.
So say it, whatever's on your mind
this very second.
No caution, no fear.
My wife is in town through Saturday night.
[Bayard chuckles]
[man] Now, Mr. Wilkins here, he's a
Mr. Rustin. Claudia Taylor.
- Have we
- Oh, years ago.
I volunteered
for the Women's Political Council
during the bus boycott.
[inhales] You spoke, and my spirit soared.
Uh, Elias.
Have you two met?
- Just now.
- Earlier?
Mr. Wilkins chose Elias
to coordinate the efforts
between the national and regional branches
before he takes over
for my daddy's church.
Such a vocation holds great rewards
both worldly and celestial.
- A heavenly calling indeed.
- [Bayard] Hm.
But once my daddy says yes,
I expect a Lincoln like my mama's.
[all laugh]
Well, I hope to see you both again
very soon, perhaps on the Sabbath.
Oh, sadly, no. I leave Saturday.
But wouldn't that have been a dream?
- [distant traffic buzzing]
- [footsteps receding]
[horns honking]
I asked you to be my assistant,
not Mrs. Rustin.
That is, if you still want the job.
[horn honks loudly]
["Everybody Loves a Lover"
by Doris Day playing]
The first time I was invited
into Martin's home,
there were guns under the sofa,
guards on the front porch.
Understandably so, given the threats
being leveled at he and his family.
I started talking to him
about passive resistance.
Over time, the guns went away.
So Dr. King's stance on nonviolence,
he got from you?
- By way of Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Thoreau.
- [laughs]
So he trusted you.
I always told him what I knew to be true.
Excuse me. Vodka water.
And how about a Manhattan?
- Ha! After two, you'll be a changed man.
- Well, in that case, give me three.
- Ah! [laughing]
- ["I Don't Know" by Ruth Brown playing]
Oh, the man is asthmatic. Mm.
Now, he can barely walk or breathe,
but the second he hits that pulpit,
you know the end of the world is at hand.
- Oh! Well, I'm gonna burn in hell.
- For sharing how you feel?
Oh, for not revering a man who welcomed me
into his home and hates my guts.
And I feel the exact same way about him.
- Mm-hmm. Mm.
- [laughing]
Oh, you're bad. You're good.
I'll have another. Do you want one?
You got it.
So, the church,
your dream or hers?
Well, I've always wanted
to serve the Lord.
- And you were raised
- Quaker.
- [Elias] Nah.
- [chuckles]
My parents [chuckles]
Well, really, my grandparents
raised me after their daughter,
my mother, flew the coop.
So the rumors about you and Dr. King
Ugh! An ugly lie
perpetrated by Adam Clayton Powell
to stop a planned protest.
He threatened to share his lie
with the press.
I called Martin's bluff and resigned.
[chuckles] He accepted,
effectively ending my connection
to the movement.
Months later,
Reverend Powell was made chairman
of the House Committee
on Education and Labor.
I get a thrill that's much too much
Too much, too much, too much
Could a heart so right
Be led so wrong
You're okay
in here
at this hour.
Would it last this long
[indistinct chattering, laughing]
- I don't know
- I don't know, I don't know
- I don't know
- I don't know, I don't know
That's drilled into you
the day you're born, huh?
They think you're less than,
so you gotta be better than.
- Yes.
- So be charming, be perfect, be polite.
The suffocating chains
of Negro respectability.
When I told Ma Rustin I preferred dancing
with boys instead of girls, she said,
"What would you have me do with that?"
And then she said,
"I suppose that's what you need to do."
When Martin speaks, he holds nothing back.
That's what people feel
when they hear him.
So tell me,
Elias Taylor,
how can you preach salvation
and not wanna save yourself?
How can you speak of love
when your heart
is disconnected from your flesh?
[chuckles] Ah.
[sensual music playing]
And when Roy said,
"Elias, can you substantiate your claim?"
and you pulled out that piece of paper,
I hope you didn't think that I was go...
[softly] Teach me how not to be afraid.
Good night.
[woman] Lord, no.
[man] Shame on Reverend King.
Sending those poor children
to march the streets of Birmingham?
A man in uniform unleashes attack dogs,
turns fire hoses on the innocent,
and the first words
out of your goddamn mouth
are "shame on Reverend King"?
Bayard, there's no reason...
You see this and think,
"Those poor Negroes down south,"
incapable of understanding
they are beyond powerful,
because today they discovered a bravery
they never knew they had.
- A bravery you'll never know.
- [colleague] Now, Bayard...
You sit behind that desk
as you've sat for over 30 years,
convincing yourself
that you're committed to saving the world,
when the only thing you're committed to
is your own safety and superiority.
Bayard, enough.
Railing against Jim
because of the color of his skin.
I'm not railing against Jim
because of the color of his skin.
I'm railing at Jim
for being arrogant and ill-informed.
The fact that he happens to be white
while doing so, well,
that's between him and the Lord.
[footsteps receding]
Every day, we agree to surrender
that which makes us different
so that together we might forge
a more humane world.
I can't surrender my differences.
The world won't let me.
And even if I could,
I wouldn't want to. Not today.
Not today.
What are you doing?
Where are you going?
Bayard, you must stay here
where I can protect you
from the world and from yourself.
You are a man of exceptional skills
and of keen intellect,
but until you admit your anger
at being abandoned by your parents,
which is why you became homosexual,
to hurt them and yourself,
you will never be fully whole,
do you hear me?
Not as a man and not as a person
committed to saving the world.
Mr. Muste, sir,
have you ever been to a Negro church?
Innumerable times.
As a Quaker,
I'd never seen anything like it.
The hand-clapping,
the singing, the shouting.
It felt like
exalted rage.
So instead of standing here
and saying something I might regret,
I'm gonna leave.
And this coming Sunday
I'm going to church.
- [footsteps receding]
- [door closes]
[Latin jazz music playing]
This, uh, new young preacher
that's working for Roy,
I hear he's so fine
the Lord cried when he made him.
I have no idea to what
or whom you are referring.
What about the other one?
What's his name? The The pale one. Tom.
- [laughs]
- Is that more your flavor?
I am drawn to beauty,
Black, white, indeterminate,
so long as they're passionate and smart.
Why is everyone so obsessed
with what I'm doing and with whom?
I'm just curious as to why
it took you so long to return my calls.
Because, my dear Miss Baker,
you casually ask questions
which cut to the core of one's soul.
- So why aren't you on a bus to Atlanta?
- Because I do not care.
And besides, Dr. King is doing just fine.
Albany, Georgia.
- You call that doing just fine?
- Who tries to integrate an entire town?
Your focus must be singular.
A A lunch counter, a bus boycott.
Sheriff Pritchett undermined
every media-savvy move Martin made.
As a result, the civil rights struggle
got swept off the front pages
of The New York Times.
- [phone ringing]
- I thought you didn't care.
Of course I care about the cause.
More so Coretta and the kids.
- Just answer the phone.
- [Bayard] Yes?
[music stops]
[softly] Ella, turn on the TV.
What? Okay.
where legal remedies are not at hand.
Redress is sought in the streets,
in demonstrations and protests,
which create tensions
and threaten violence and threaten lives.
We face, therefore, a moral crisis
as a country and a people.
Next week, I shall ask
the Congress of the United States to act.
To make a commitment
it has not fully made in this century
to the proposition that race has no place
in American life or law.
The Federal...
On your own, you and Martin are fine,
but together, you are fire.
- Now, he needs you
- I can't.
to help him figure out what's next,
and you need him
to nationalize this march.
And don't you dare tell me
about your damn job as an excuse.
I quit my job this afternoon
or took a leave of absence or something.
A shark trapped in a damn shot glass.
Now, I never believed
for one second Powell's lie,
but I do believe that he saw the power
that you and Martin had,
and it threatened him.
Threatens 'em all.
But this this country
has failed us over and over again.
And even so, each day, we forgive
by fighting to make things right.
And yet you can't forgive Martin
for failing you that one time?
This new generation is restless
and and angry.
You want that anger to turn to blood?
Our children's blood?
Or will you harness it with Martin
for our freedom?
You go.
You go get your friend back.
[radio announcer] That 1510 spot
way down south here in Dixie.
John R., WLAC soul center,
Nashville, Tennessee,
the broadcasting service
of Life and Casualty Insurance Company.
[mellow saxophone solo playing]
Don't touch that nigger.
Get on back now.
If I move, this child will never know
that an injustice is taking place.
- [punch thuds]
- [both grunt]
[both grunting]
- I'm not resisting.
- [grunting]
I'm not... [straining]
- I'm... [grunts]
- [body thuds]
- [both grunt]
- [music continues]
[punches thudding]
- [music stops]
- [bus engine running]
["Lucille" by Little Richard playing]
[music fading]
[doorbell chimes]
- Bayard. Oh my word!
- Coretta.
- As I live and breathe!
- [laughing]
- When did you get into town?
- Oh, within the hour.
Oh, look at you.
- No, look at you.
- Oh, you must stay for dinner.
Oh, you better ask
the master of the house.
Oh, hush.
You can't be a master without slaves,
and in this house,
there are neither. [chuckles]
Oh, you must see the children.
I did it! Look, I did it!
- [girl] Shut up.
- So, Madam Coloratura.
Carnegie Hall?
- I know some folks who know some folks.
- You haven't been here ten minutes.
This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine
Let it shine
Let it shine
All right. All right.
- Everywhere I go
- Go
- I'm gonna let it shine
- Oh!
Everywhere I go
Good. Good.
I'm gonna let it shine
Your microphone. Here you go.
Everywhere I go
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine
- Well, all right. Come on.
- [solo] Jesus is the light
Jesus is the light
I'm gonna let it shine
- Jesus is the light
- [clapping]
I'm gonna let it shine
- [Bayard] Yes!
- [Coretta] Come on, Bernice.
Jesus is the light
- [Coretta] Thank you.
- I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine
- Let it shine, let it shine
- [Bayard] Fortissimo! Which means loud!
Let it shine
- Bravo!
- [clapping]
- Bravo, Uncle Bayard!
- Yeah, Uncle Bayard!
[humming "Let It Shine"]
[humming continues]
So Brother Medgar.
What did you make of Kennedy's speech?
Calculated, cautious.
Hours later, Medgar gets shot.
So your march is ambitious.
Unless we demonstrate strength in unity,
Kennedy will do what they've always done,
champion legislation
that's destined to fail.
This was not an easy journey for me.
But the promise
of what this march could become,
the monumental impact it could have,
the lives it could radically alter.
- [laughing]
- The dreams, the visions,
and unfulfilled aspirations
of our ancestors...
First time we met [laughs]
I remember calling Corrie
and saying that this Rustin fella's
a little crazy in the head.
Only later did I fully comprehend
that "a little" didn't even come close.
I missed you, friend.
And I you.
Come fall, the Dixiecrats will get to work
gutting Kennedy's bill, which leaves us...
Two months to organize
the largest peaceful protest ever
and absolutely no time for anything else.
Such as?
Succumbing to blackmail,
innuendo, and lies,
which are sure to follow
if and when the march is announced.
What about things that are true about you?
What you see, I cannot conceal.
But I swear to you,
there will be no
So an epic demonstration
in our nation's capital,
organized in eight to ten weeks
without the help of the NAACP.
Sounds like a hell of a good time.
You once said,
"The time is always right
to do right."
We're calling for a nonviolent,
peaceful march on Washington.
We intend to go there
not by the hundreds or by the thousands,
but by the hundreds of thousands.
[Elias] Now that Dr. King
has publicly endorsed the march,
Mr. Wilkins can't attack it.
So he's coming after you.
[man shouts] Brother Rustin!
- Cleve! What are you doing here?
- [laughing]
When I heard
about Roy's little coup de tte--tte,
I decided to come and provide support,
moral and otherwise.
Norm, Tom,
meet the indomitable Cleve Robinson,
union leader of District 65.
And newly appointed chairman
of the march's administrative committee.
And our first donor.
You'd think they've never seen
proud Black men before.
"Glorious shall be the battle
when the time comes
to fight for our people and our race!"
Black gents, and Tom, shall we?
[all laughing]
I realize a total budget of $65,000
may seem like a lot...
Chief, there's a rumor going around
that you're planning
on holding the march this summer?
- Way too soon.
- While the horror of Birmingham is fresh...
- Bayard assured me the time...
- Let the man speak!
We've got to seize the moment.
The time is now.
- Bayard, if I might.
- Do you understand...
[Martin decisively] Bayard!
We all heard the president
announce on national television
that he intends
to send a bill to Congress.
It is my personal estimation
that in order to get the bill
past Southern segregationists
will take a president of intelligence,
political savvy, and the passion.
Kennedy has the first two in abundance
but not the third.
Not when it comes to civil rights.
So to ensure he does not relent,
we must not relent in our commitment
to the country and to the race.
And that is the reason
for the timely nature
of this most improbable
yet most essential endeavor.
- I couldn't have said it better...
- Who are all these people?
You, you, you, you, stay.
Everyone else, out.
I am chairman
of the administrative committee
and, to date, the march's only donor.
Much appreciated. Out!
Go on. Write yourselves out of history.
- [Bayard] Come on.
- I'd be happier doing it without you.
You showboating,
bloodsucking sons of whores!
- Gonna throw me out?
- Cleve!
- Go and suck your mother!
- Oh, Cleve. Cleve.
You do realize what's happening
right this second?
My guess is Roy is starting
to build his case against me.
We must ask ourselves,
is this the man we wish to see labeled
Mr. March-on-Washington?
[Bayard] John Lewis
and the chief will defend me.
[Roy] He was
in the Young Communist League.
Which he renounced years ago.
- Imprisoned for refusing the draft.
- A moral decision, not a cowardly one.
Even so, Roy will press on.
His mannerisms and reputation
make him an easy target.
And when the white press
and the powers that be take aim,
and they will,
every person seated at this table
will be in the line of fire
because of him.
What date is strategically wise
for a march?
- We'll need at least eight weeks.
- Monday, August 26th.
Mondays are challenging for Protestants,
Fridays complicated for Jewish friends.
Sorry, sir, but what happened in there?
- They voted to remove Bayard as director.
- Son of a bitch.
My first order of business
was to reappoint him
as my deputy director,
- putting him fully in charge.
- [all laughing]
You can call me trash collector
for all I care.
You are one very clever Black man.
[Cleve laughs]
[softly] Get to work, my friend.
[upbeat jazz music playing]
[indistinct chattering]
Come on. Come on. Come on.
Our new offices!
The third floor's uninhabitable,
so we'll be all on top of each other
down here.
Ugh, dirty.
There you go.
Over here.
- Our boardroom.
- [woman] Our boardroom?
Rachelle, you'll be in charge
of transportation.
For 100,000 people?
I can't even drive.
Norm, you'll travel from city to city
raising funds and spreading the word.
Well, what's my budget?
This'll get you to your first city where
you'll raise funds to get you to the next.
My office.
Near the stairs and the front door?
Is that wise?
I'd like to welcome a woman
who needs no introduction.
Dr. Anna Hedgeman.
Dr. Hedgeman has volunteered
to lead outreach
to all religious organizations.
Tom, Eleanore.
- You'll oversee all written documents.
- Yeah.
First up, an invite to a July 2nd meeting
with the leaders
of the Big Six civil rights organizations.
- [Anna] Oh.
- [clamoring]
All those big oversized hats
for those big oversized heads.
- [woman laughs]
- We need their numbers and resources.
- Courtney?
- Yes, sir.
You'll come with me to DC.
- Tom?
- Yup.
Instead of finding a place in the city,
you're gonna stay in my spare room.
- Keep me focused and out of trouble.
- We tried this, and it doesn't work.
[music stops]
By the time I get back
from DC tomorrow night,
this dump needs to be operational.
[big band swing music playing]
[classical music playing]
[Bayard] One can't help but be in awe.
Makes you wanna believe.
Bayard Rustin, deputy director of
the March on Washington
for Jobs and Freedom.
Chief Wells.
Mr. Caldwell,
Deputies Walden, Cowell, and Barnes.
- Who's with the National Park Service?
- No one.
If I'm not mistaken,
the mall falls under NPS jurisdiction.
Chief Wells,
in little under seven weeks' time,
a monumental, two-day event is...
One day. It's no longer a two-day event.
According to whom?
Mr. Wilkins of the NAACP
also believes it should be one day.
I'd be safe in assuming
you do not work for Mr. Wilkins.
No, I do not.
[chuckles] Well, neither do I,
so I'm confused as to why
you even mentioned his name.
Mr. Rustin...
I am, however, very interested
in knowing who you do work for.
Mr. Rustin,
we find what works best is for you
to answer our questions, not the reverse.
And I found a free-flowing exchange
of information and ideas
works even better.
Well, when you put on an event
in your mall, we'll give that a go,
but seeing as it's your gathering
in our mall...
Your mall? Not the National Mall
or America's Front Yard...
- Since you insist on raising your voice...
- I have not raised my voice...
You're more invested in constructing
roadblocks instead of finding solutions...
The person I needed to communicate with
didn't even bother to show up.
I fail to see how we can support
your gathering. Gentlemen.
Where are you going?
Sir, sir! It is not a gathering.
It is an act of civil disobedience,
sanctioned by some
of the most meaningful minds
in the country.
And it is going to take place
over two days!
departing from Union Station for Boston
I tell you, Martin, not since Tennessee,
when those two policemen
set out to reconfigure my face,
have I experienced
such an overt display of disregard.
They had one goal, to make sure
the meeting was a resounding failure.
[Martin] You say he mentioned Roy.
Yeah, but it was clear this was coming
from someplace higher up.
[Martin] President Kennedy
and his attorney general brother
higher up?
Or Hoover and the FBI?
All of the above.
[Coretta] Martin?
Corrie's calling me to dinner.
We'll speak tomorrow.
Give her a hug.
[coins clink]
[phone ringing]
- [sniffs]
- [heavy breathing]
- [receiver clanks, rings out]
- [suspenseful music plays]
[phone ringing]
["Sacred Is the Lord"
by Mahalia Jackson playing]
[phone ringing]
[singing along]
[phone ringing]
[volume increases]
[phone ringing]
Oh my Lord rain
- [phone ringing]
- rain
Oh sorry.
- Sorry.
- Come on.
You alone?
- Never, when Mahalia's around. [chuckles]
- [music stops]
Uh, no, I should probably go to sleep.
Oh no.
I made you one anyway.
Good night.
[door closes]
[sinister music playing]
[car approaching]
- [phones ringing]
- [indistinct chattering]
- [woman] Yes, this is Michelle Harwood.
- Yes. Yes, this is Michelle Harwood
March on Washington, Michelle Harwood.
How may I help you?
[woman 2] Yes.
Yes, this is Michelle Harwood.
- [woman] Louisville 50?
- [phone ringing]
- [woman 3] Michelle Harwood speaking.
- Who is Michelle Harwood?
Anyone involved in travel
is Michelle Harwood.
Keeps it simple when they call back.
It was Bayard's idea.
[woman 4] Yes, this is Michelle Harwood.
[Lewis] The president kept talking,
mostly about himself.
How if anything goes wrong at the march,
it's gonna kill his bill.
And why protest at the White House,
especially after his speech and his bill?
What was Roy's response?
He nodded mostly.
- Whitney and Jim?
- Watching Martin, who was listening.
- [inhales] Then the president's brother...
- The attorney general was there?
Kept saying we should cancel,
call the whole thing off.
And this took place in the Oval Office?
Three days ago.
Now, I received a very distressing letter
from Senator Douglas.
I received one as well,
from Senator Humphrey.
So did I, Senator Hart.
- Regarding?
- Latrines.
- Isn't Park Services helping us out?
- No, they are not.
Which is why I'm proposing the march
from a coalition with the unions.
The AFL-CIO, the UAW...
Both of whom are against a two-day event...
You're on the AFL council.
Well, I'm not sure about Meany,
but Reuther does, in fact,
favor a one-day march
and no White House event.
Exactly what I said.
We need to limit this to one day
and take the White House off the table.
You try to get me fired.
Now you wanna see the march destroyed.
Do you think I just woke up one day
and said to myself,
"Let's stage the largest march ever
and get former communist Quaker
Bayard Rustin to pull it all together?"
No, I did not.
But once we signed on,
we're in it no matter what.
If you would just accept
the inevitable now,
instead of later
when economics force you to,
it would give the appearance
of strength and unity.
It's called being strategic.
I know this may feel like an attenuation
of everything that we fought for...
Because that's exactly what it is.
A two-day event will make it clear
that we will not back down or back away.
- If you allow Roy this one...
- Absolutely not.
Bayard, you have Chief,
you have me, Dr. Hedgeman, and Jim.
An uneasy alliance,
but an alliance nonetheless.
And if I'm not asking attendees
to get arrested at the White House
or, heaven forbid, sleep in tents,
I could get more congregations to sign on.
- So no lobbying Congress?
- Or marching on the White House?
- Or tents on the Mall?
- Turning into a goddamn picnic.
That first day, sharing ideas,
writing them on the wall
Bayard, you have to understand
our disappointment.
Do I want this? No.
But if we wanna make sure
100,000 people show up, we need help.
And in order to get the unions
and their money, changes have to be made.
If Sisters Dorie and Joyce
went out to Westchester
or the Upper East Side,
I know you'd come back with not only
enough money for one bus but three.
Same with you Eleanore, Tom, Charlene.
We are committed to the cause
of altering the trajectory of this country
towards freedom.
That's what's on the line.
Nothing less.
[rhythmic jazz music playing]
I'd like to share what it was like
growing up in Hattiesburg.
As a young girl in Mississippi
Regardless of how smart you were
and never miss Sunday school.
you were told that your dreams
were never gonna happen.
- Because of what you looked like.
- Because of the color of your skin.
[music continues]
We got another bus!
[horn honking]
As long as Negro workers
are ill-housed and underpaid,
then the fate of all workers
will be at peril.
My father was president
of Transportation Workers Local 101.
- Brooklyn!
- [all] Brooklyn!
[music continues]
Get your March on Washington buttons!
One quarter, brother. One quarter.
One quarter... Thank you!
For the emancipation of our race!
One quarter. One quarter.
Make sure you are there!
- Sister, one quarter. One quarter.
- Mm-mm. Mm-mm.
One quarter!
We just had the best idea ever.
Everybody say yeah!
[crowd cheering, applauding]
Say yeah!
[crowd] Yeah!
- Say yeah!
- [crowd] Yeah!
- Yeah!
- [crowd] Yeah!
Yeah, yeah, yeah
- [Tom] Five thousand!
- [Eleanore] Five thousand dollars.
August 28th, Mahalia Jackson's gonna sing,
and freedom's gonna shine.
Freedom has never been free,
so we will continue to march,
and we will fight and will not stop.
[music stops]
[piano playing gospel music]
And the Lord wants you to know
that you're loved.
- Yes. Thank the Lord.
- Yes.
- [Elias] Now, he wraps you in his arms
- [all] Yes, he does.
- and your fears begin to fade.
- [all] Yes!
- Now, his touch
- Yes!
is his way of saying
- [woman] Praise to God!
- you're not alone.
- [woman] You're not alone.
- [man] Thank you!
Now, where you once felt hopeless
[woman] Yes!
you now feel strong.
[woman] Uh-huh!
- Where there was once doubt, ha
- [all] Yes!
- Amen! Praise the Lord!
- you now feel brave and alive.
Because you know.
- [all] Amen!
- [Elias] Oh, you know!
You know! You know!
You know! You know
with all of your heart
that you are a child of God.
That you have the right to love
and be loved.
- Yes!
- Let the congregation say amen.
[congregation] Amen!
[Elias] Amen and amen
and amen and amen and amen!
- Tom!
- Yeah?
On the desk, an invitation to the march
Dr. Anna asked me to write.
My spelling is atrocious.
Also, have Officer Johnson
from the New York Guardians come see me.
- [glass thuds]
- And in addition to an FBI detail
being parked out front,
careful what you say on the phone.
I have a feeling
the entire Kennedy clan is listening in.
[door closes]
[officer] Keep moving. Go. Everybody go.
[tense music playing]
[officer] Move it. Move it. Get in.
- [thuds]
- [Elias] Mr. Rustin?
I waited for you outside.
When the cops showed up, uh,
they closed the curtains
and rounded them up like dogs.
Why the cameras?
The police sometimes alert the press
when there's gonna be a raid.
I have a wife.
You know, parents, six brothers
and sisters, a congregation in wait.
What if I'd gone inside? I almost did.
Where were you?
Running late, thank God.
Or God's warning.
Ma Rustin once told me
that I should only associate
with those who had
as much to lose as I did.
We'll be more careful.
[breathily] I have to go. I
[whispering] Elias.
Uh, roughly speaking,
there are how many Guardians?
One thousand one hundred
Negro New York City policemen.
Ah, you're the only cops I trust,
so I'm gonna need every single one of you
in DC, but your guns must stay at home.
Even if I thought that was a good idea,
which I do not,
New York law requires
that we're in possession of our firearms
24 hours a day.
Well, then I guess
we're gonna have to change the law.
- Thank you so very much for coming.
- [announcer] Today, from the Senate floor,
the following allegations were made
by Senator Strom Thurmond.
[Bayard] We'll be in touch.
[Thurmond] Mr. King's infamous alliances
with communists and agitators
has been a carefully guarded secret.
[Bayard] Eleanore!
- [Thurmond] Until now.
- Get Mayor Wagner on the phone.
[Thurmond] Mr. Bayard Rustin,
not only Mr. Kings closest advisor,
he is also a communist.
This march is being built
by the Communist Party. It...
Tom, we're gonna need
three press releases,
ranging from purely pissed
to questioning the mental well-being
of the not-so-beloved senator
from South Carolina.
Eleanore, what's the name
of that woman reporter
from The Washington Post?
- McNair?
- Susanna McBee?
- Bayard, Dr. King.
- Oh, thank you. I'll take it in my office.
I will not speak to anyone else
from the press except her.
And get Mayor Wagner to call me back.
[Martin] Fortunately,
Roy's animus towards you
is eclipsed by his unadulterated hatred
for Strom Thurmond.
So we're safe for now, friend.
Thank you, friend.
[phone clunks]
[knocking on door]
Press release number one.
Years ago, when I was in Pasadena
doing speeches
for the Fellowship of Reconciliation
[knocking on door]
Is this the office
of the famous Bayard Rustin? [chuckles]
I'll finish the other two.
- I've been thinking.
- About?
What Ma Rustin said.
"Only associate with someone
with as much to lose."
And who might that someone be?
Who do you think?
[Eleanore] She goes on to talk about
your dedication to justice and peace
and calls you heroic.
- Yeah!
- [Eleanore laughs]
Enough. Enough. Get rid of all that.
- [all laugh]
- So, last night, thinking about the march
We need to provide
toll booths with leaflets
so that those arriving by cars
know where to go once they're in DC.
It's, uh, just after one.
Good night, everyone.
Go. Go.
- Blyden.
- Mr. Rustin, sir.
I've been hounding the mayor
about a project.
Today he called me back and said yes.
So, starting next week
[solemn music playing]
Please follow me to the third floor.
- [music continues]
- [rain tapping]
I do not take orders
from no goddamn Uncle Tom's.
Thinking you shit 'cause of that badge.
How many niggas dead 'cause of that badge?
[music continues]
Good. Breathe.
- [inaudible]
- [Bayard] When they see an aggressor,
move as one, work as one.
If we desire a society of peace,
then we cannot achieve
such a society through violence.
You will leave your weapons at home.
You will wear white identifying armbands,
wear a white hat, and carry a whistle.
It is your responsibility
to create an atmosphere of peace
for all to witness and follow.
God bless you all.
- Good job.
- All right.
Appreciate it.
- My friend, Elias Taylor, with the NAACP.
- Thank you, sir.
- Thank you.
- Nice work.
- Good job.
- Take care now.
Thank you. Elias Taylor.
Elizabethan Songs & Negro Spirituals.
So you sang, huh?
And on two songs,
played the lute. [chuckles]
Oh, they sure as hell
don't grow 'em like you down in Alabama.
Or anywhere else. [laughs]
[glass thuds]
- Oh God, no. No, I I I...
- Yes. Yes.
[playing lute]
I ne'er didst dream
Such heavenly joy
Wouldst come my...
[door closes]
Tom! [chuckles]
Tom's staying here through the march.
- I thought you and Eleanore were...
- Canceled.
[Bayard] Oh.
- I'm sure you must be...
- No, I'm good.
- So, Elias, I hear you're married.
- [Bayard] Tom...
And you attended Howard University.
I heard of colored passing for white.
- Good luck with the reverse.
- Elias, please!
When I was 16,
I brought a Negro friend home for dinner.
My father told me he was not going
to allow "that boy" to sit at his table.
And that was the end of that.
Your friend?
My family.
I moved out,
and I've been on my own ever since.
Where I come from,
we hold on to our family
no matter what.
[footsteps receding]
[Bayard] Elias.
[softly] I care about him.
Who don't you care about?
I'm sure there's
some PhD student at Columbia
or some junior activist fresh out of Fisk.
Why don't you take them both
down to that bar on 8th Avenue
and regale them with stories
about Gandhi and King?
And then, when it's convenient...
Oh, I'm sorry.
When their feelings become inconvenient,
it's on to the next one.
[breathing heavily]
Except this time, you started giving
your heart to someone
who is so clearly incapable
of giving his back.
And all the while, I've been
[footsteps receding]
[door slams]
Courtney, Charles, we need more chairs.
We need the entire team up here.
- But what about the phones?
- Now!
[Martin] Bayard.
Roy's guest has arrived.
[Bayard] What are they up to?
- We're about to find out.
- [clapping]
And with our three new religious leaders
and Mr. Reuther from the UAW,
the Big Six is now the Big Ten.
Given that this will probably be
one of the last meetings
before the march...
Mr. Randolph,
I have a question for our deputy director.
As I was saying, this is probably...
Mr. Rustin, you love your work,
love this march?
With all my heart.
What if, strictly hypothetical,
there was someone attached
to this fine organization you've created
whose mere presence
was dangerous and detrimental
to the cause you love?
Someone whose past affiliations,
political and otherwise,
combined with their quiddity and flair,
could be used by those in power
to inflict great harm,
not just to the march,
but the acts of vengeance
from those in power
could very easily derail the fight
for racial justice in this country
a good ten, fifteen years.
Would you keep that person
in their position,
or would your sense of duty
as a custodian of the cause
compel you to send him/her,
her/him on his/her way?
Hypothetically speaking
I'd send them on their way.
Unless the person in question
happened to be me.
[scattered laughing]
Julia and Janifer Rustin
raised me to be humble and never brag,
but seeing as no one else on the team
was raised... Blyden, are you a Quaker?
- Hell, no.
- They'll speak instead.
Norm, how many first aid stations
have been secured?
Twenty-two, run by teams
of mostly Negro medical practitioners.
There'll be six water tanks,
1,500 gallons each,
ensuring that the 27 portable fountains
are operational all day long.
All in all, we have 2,220 chartered buses.
CORE North Carolina, 11 buses.
SNCC Mississippi, seven.
[Bayard] And Reverend Powell's church?
They've chartered five. I could continue
state by state, but, Joyce?
Forty Freedom trains.
And thanks to the UAW,
six chartered flights,
bringing in workers from Chicago,
Grand Rapids, Flint, Detroit,
Syracuse, Rochester, and New York.
Also, per Mr. Rustin's request,
the mayor has approved the implementation
of the subway rush hour schedule at 5 a.m.
so that passengers can make
their 6 a.m. bus departures the day of.
Blyden, who are the Guardians?
A fraternal order
of New York City's Black police.
And how many will be in Washington, DC
to ensure a safe and peaceful march?
Over 1,000.
- Latrines?
- Two hundred and ninety-two.
And a chartered plane of celebrities,
including Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando,
James Baldwin, Charlton Heston...
Diahann Carroll, Sammy Davis Jr.,
Lena Horne, and Burt Lancaster
will also be in attendance.
All of which has been achieved
in seven weeks.
And that is why
I would never send me on my way.
- [cheering, laughing]
- [man] Yeah!
Yes, yes, yes.
How does so much get accomplished
in such a short amount of time?
By working 12 to 15 hours a day every day
and because of Bayard.
Chief, Dr. Hedgeman,
you ever get a word stuck in your head
that you just can't shake?
Now what?
While Bayard and the Rustinettes
were putting on their little revue,
the word I couldn't shake, Pasadena.
- [tense music playing]
- [Powell] Martin, you ever been?
[Martin] What's that got to do
with anything?
[Powell] How about you, deputy director?
Ever spent time in Pasadena?
- Hm?
- [chuckles]
[Powell] Can't recall?
Well, I just happened to have
[music continues]
The hell did the GD thing go? I had it.
No, I'm done. Done.
- [papers rustling]
- I look at this program.
I do not see one woman's name.
Not Ella Baker or Diane Nash,
not Dorothy Height or Gloria Richardson.
Myrlie Evers, Rosa Parks.
Not, not, not, not, not.
Uh, correct me if I'm wrong,
but a decision was made early on
that only leaders
of participating organizations
would be allowed to speak.
- [Powell] Hold up, where's my name?
- [Martin] That includes no politicians.
[Powell] Look, I am more
than just a politician.
You hotfoot down
to 7th Avenue and 125th Street
and stop anyone,
say the name Adam Clayton Powell...
Dr. Hedgeman, might I suggest
we reconvene
once a solution has been found?
Good. Now back to the point
I was about to make...
Adam, you are a guest here.
You cannot continually...
Would one of you mind
checking the glove compartment...
- Adam!
- You might be head nigga down South...
Congressman Powell!
We have moved on!
This meeting is adjourned.
Keep the faith, baby.
[footsteps going downstairs]
[phone ringing]
Evening, G-man.
Please tell Mr. Hoover to...
[woman] Mr. Rustin.
Who is this?
[woman] Claudia.
Elias' wife.
Oh, uh, yes.
[groans, clears throat]
[inhales sharply]
[exhales] How are you?
[Claudia] Thank you for asking.
I have good news.
My father has decided
to officially hand over
his congregation to my husband.
Oh, that is
wonderful indeed.
[Claudia] I'm glad to hear
you feel that way.
So if you wouldn't mind telling my husband
it is time for him to return home
to the path our Lord ordains.
Mrs. Taylor...
I wanna thank you for the time,
the inordinate amount of time
that you've taken with Elias,
but that is over.
[Claudia] You believe
in Elias' possibilities.
I know his limitations.
- [phone clunks]
- [hang up tone]
[solemn music playing]
- Chief Wells.
- Mr. Rustin.
My associate is handing out a map,
which details the location
of key support systems,
water fountains, lost and found.
I'm also pleased to inform you
that over 1,000 New York City Marshals
will be present.
The Guardians have been schooled
in the tenets and practices
of passive resistance
and, therefore, will not be armed.
For the first time since Prohibition,
every liquor store in the area
will be closed for the day.
All elective surgeries have been canceled,
and congressmen are telling
their female staff to stay home.
And why is that?
Is it because a number of people,
specifically a number of men
with skin my color, will be in town?
The last time I turned on the television,
I saw a pack of white hooligans
attacking Negroes at a lunch counter
and a white police officer
ordering children to be hosed.
But to blame all for the actions of a few
would be unfair.
As a matter of fact,
that's what's called being racist.
You two, you look like
you might be the engineers I requested.
That we are.
On the day of your march,
the entire DC police force
has been mobilized,
along with 500 reserves,
2,500 National Guard,
4,000 Army soldiers,
and, per orders of the Pentagon,
19,000 troops.
Well, I hope you'll have something
for them to do,
because they will not be needed here.
And whoever has direct dealings
with Mr. Hoover,
let him know that on August 28th,
Black, white, young, old,
rich, working-class, poor
will descend on Washington, DC,
and there's nothing he can do to stop it.
I need a sound system which will allow
someone speaking here
to be heard all the way back there
because sound is how you turn
a crowd into an audience.
And as each of our heroines rises,
Chief would proclaim
their remarkable deeds to the world.
- So seen but not heard.
- They could write their own introductions.
With all due respect, Mr. Randolph,
a woman should introduce them.
And don't ask me for recommendations,
because a number of women have informed me
that they will not be participating
in the march.
That's unfortunate to hear.
[sighs] What is unfortunate, sir,
are the circumstances
that led them to the decision.
[Randolph] Bayard,
what's the word in Washington?
Uh, well, we need $16,000 to $20,000
for a sound system.
How are the numbers?
- [Bayard] Rachelle?
- Our latest estimate is 88,000.
If we have one person less than 100,000...
Interesting enough, last couple of days,
Congressman Powell has been hounding me
about speaking at the march.
You wanna know why?
Aunt Bess is throwing a cookout.
- [all laugh]
- Aunt Bess?
Nobody has an Auntie Bess.
Aunt Wilhelmina, Aunt Clarissa, Aunt...
I have an Aunt Bess!
And 20 guests have confirmed.
By the time cousins call cousins,
neighbors invite neighbors,
Aunt Bess best be cooking for at least 50.
Mr. Deputy Director,
you best be cooking for 200,000.
- You heard it here first.
- Ooh.
Pledge cards.
It feels a bit off-putting
to be begging the day of.
"I do solemnly swear to commit myself
to the civil rights struggle."
"And do pledge my heart, mind, and body,
unequivocally and without regard
to personal sacrifice,
to the achievement of social peace
through social justice."
"I pledge to carry
the message of the march
to my friends and neighbors back home
and to arouse them to an equal commitment
and an equal effort."
"I will march, and I will write letters."
"I will demonstrate, and I will vote."
"I will work to make sure that my voice
and those of my brothers
ring clear and determined
from every corner of this land."
My wife
Her father is retiring
and leaving his church on to me.
She called to tell me.
Did she also tell you she's pregnant?
[softly] Elias
you may think you're killing off
one aspect of yourself,
but you're not.
You're killing all of yourself.
I am a married man,
about to be a father, and you, sir,
are a sick man,
and you need to stop following me.
She also implied
she hadn't heard from you.
Have you visited this park at night?
Mt. Morris Baths?
Who got to you?
The vice squad? The FBI?
Do they have pictures?
For the desires of the flesh
are against the spirit,
and the desires of the spirit
are against the flesh.
For the desires of the flesh
are against the spirit,
and the desires of the flesh...
To keep you from that
which you desire most.
[Thurmond] The organizer
of this catastrophe-in-wait,
the so-called "man," Bayard Rustin,
is not only a communist,
he is also a pervert.
I have, in my possession,
his Pasadena arrest record,
dated January 1953.
Mr. Rustin plead guilty
to lewd conduct with two men.
He's a convicted homosex...
- [car door opens]
- [gasps]
The Council of Churches has committed
to build 80,000 box lunches
the evening before, correct?
- Correct?
- Yes.
Yes! Peanut butter and jelly.
- We were talking, and...
- [phone ringing]
Don't answer that.
- Uh, who's we?
- The girls and myself.
Uh, and decided that cheese sandwiches
would be so much better.
No. No. Peanut butter and jelly.
- [phones ringing]
- Don't answer that.
What is the one word
you've heard me say over and over?
- Eleanore?
- Details.
- It's gonna be over 80 degrees.
- [phone ringing frantically]
Cheese spoils.
You should know better.
- [grunting]
- [phone ringing]
You should have known better!
- [heavy breathing]
- [phones ringing]
- [punch thuds]
- [Bayard grunts]
[phones ringing]
[blaring big band music playing]
[music stops]
[Martin] Bayard...
You are one of the smartest men I know,
so explain to me why,
after all that's left undone,
am I yet again forced
to justify my existence.
Each of us are taught in ways
both cunning and cruel
that we are inadequate, incomplete,
And the easiest way to combat
that feeling of not being enough
is to find someone we consider less than.
Less than because they are poorer than us
or because they are darker than us
or because they desire someone
our churches and our laws say
they should not desire.
When we tell ourselves such lies,
start to live and believe such lies,
we do the work of our oppressors
by oppressing ourselves.
Strom Thurmond and Hoover
don't give a shit about me.
What they really want to destroy
is all of us coming together
and demanding this country change.
Are they expecting my resignation?
Some are, yes.
Then they're going to have to fire me
because I will not resign.
On the day that I was born Black,
I was also born a homosexual.
They either believe
in freedom and justice for all,
or they do not.
[door opens]
[door closes]
- [woman] Yes, this is Michelle Harwood.
- [phones ringing]
- [woman 2] This is Michelle Harwood.
- [woman 3] Okay. Okay.
And may I have your first and last name?
Michelle Harwood speaking.
Yes, this is Michelle.
Biloxi, another bus.
Forty-seven, Chattanooga.
[woman 4] Eleanore, I got new numbers.
Wanna see 'em?
- [woman 5] Do you have any other requests?
- You're gonna take the tollbooth.
[typewriter tapping]
[Joyce] Just before
the Washington Old Dominion corridor
Is that how you intend to dress
for my execution?
[laughs softly]
My widow's veil is at the cleaners.
[chuckles, inhales sharply]
This entire time
you've been waiting for me
to offer you something
I'm not ready to give.
Maybe when I'm older
and most of the battles have been won,
free myself to fall in love.
But until then, I want you to know
that you're my family.
No secrets,
no shame,
just love.
[door opens abruptly]
I am dismayed that there are men
who, wrapping themselves
in Christian morality,
would violate the most elementary
conceptions of human decency
in order to persecute other men.
[applauding on TV]
Mr. Rustin is one of the most moral,
one of the most decent human beings
I've ever known.
He is as committed to American democracy
as any current elected official
and would fight to protect
the rights of all,
including those who would use
the power of their position
to deny him his.
I'm proud to call him friend.
I can't think of a finer person
to lead us into Washington, DC.
[chuckles softly]
[indistinct chattering]
[inspirational music playing]
[man] Mr. Rustin!
- [man 2] What side? Right?
- [man 3] Right.
Jesus walked this lonesome valley
He had to walk it by himself
Lord, I hope and pray they come today.
[man] That goes over there.
That goes over there.
Thank you for coming.
Take this and go right over there.
[woman] Take some more of those.
[woman 2] Let's sign
and return these pledge cards.
- Mr. Rustin.
- Mr. Rustin, sir.
- It's 7:45 a.m.
- Where is everybody?
- You said there'd be 100,000 people here.
- I see 75 people here tops.
Alabama, Wisconsin, Nevada, Union Station.
I would say about 10 o'clock.
[Eleanore] Ten o'clock.
[man over PA] Check, check.
Testing, one, two, three.
this morning with
Woke up this morning with
Woke up this morning with
Woke up this morning with
Woke up this morning with
- Woke up this morning with
- Stayed on freedom
- Woke up this morning with
- Stayed on freedom
[harmonizing] Stayed on freedom
Woke up this morning with my mind
Stayed on freedom
Woke up this morning with my mind
Stayed on freedom
Hallelu, Hallelu
Beautiful crowd.
Freedom now, freedom now
- Yeah!
- Hallelujah!
Everyone, move this line.
- [horns honking]
- [inspirational music playing]
[singers] Woke up this morning with
Woke up this morning with
Stayed on freedom
Woke up this morning with my mind
[marchers] Freedom, freedom
Freedom, freedom, freedom
Oh, thank my God how he kept me
I'm gonna thank him
'Cause He never left me, yeah
I wanna thank Him
For ol' time religion
I wanna thank God
For giving me a vision
Oh, I'm gon' join the Heavenly choir
I'm gonna shout and never get tired
I'm gonna shout all my troubles over
I'm gonna sing glory Hallelujah
You know I'm gonna thank
Thank him for being
'Cause God's been so good to me
When we let it ring
from every village and every hamlet,
from every state and every city,
we will be able to speed up that day
when all of God's children,
Black men and white men,
Jews and Gentiles,
Protestants and Catholics,
will all be able to join hands
and sing in the words
of the old Negro spiritual,
"Free at last! Free at last!"
"Thank God almighty, we are free at last."
[triumphant music playing]
[Anna] Bayard.
- Anna.
- [Cleve] Mr. Randolph. [laughs]
When I was a child,
every night, my father would ask,
"Have you made yourself useful today?"
And I'm certain that was the same for you.
But, child, today
[Roy] Chief! Chief!
I just got word.
The president has invited
the Big Ten to the Oval Office.
- [cheering]
- Oh!
That's what I'm talking about.
Bayard should be with us.
A few weeks ago, I said
that I'd happily act as trash collector
if we pulled today off.
Rustin, you are far more valuable to us
than a trash collector.
Roy, for shame.
Ma Rustin taught me
that no man is less valuable
because he picks up trash
to care for his own.
[indistinct chattering]
Hello, son. How are you?
Would you mind?
[gentle music playing]
Thank you.
[music continues]
[group singing in background]
["Road to Freedom"
by Lenny Kravitz playing]
We are here to make the dream true
And together thats what well do
We are here we will change the tide
Step by step standing side by side
Were on the road to freedom
Until the war is won
Were on the road to freedom
Theres so much work to be done
We will fight where evil lies
We will sacrifice
Theres no compromise
On this road were prepared to die
We will stay the course
We know we will rise
- Were on the road to freedom
- On the road to freedom
- Until the war is won
- Until the war is won
- Were on the road to freedom
- Road to freedom
- So much work to be done
- We're marching on
- Were on the road to freedom
- Oh freedom
- Until the war is won
- Until the war is won
- Were on the road to freedom
- Freedom
So much work to be done
were marching on
And on and on and on and on
- Were on the road to freedom
- Freedom
So much work to be done
["The Knowing" by Ledisi Young playing]
Your touch, hard to resist
I cant find the words
But I want this
We move differently
And want the same thing
Youre like me and I want you
Change the world
Watching you make history
Loves the language
The root of everything
Tell them what we know
Tell them what we know
Whisper softly
For freedom soon to come
Ahead of time for others, not for us
Tell them what we know
Tell them what we know
Forbidden love
A flame, a stolen stare
But now pretend
That our loves not really there
They dont wanna know
They dont need to know
Now love me, hold me, steal a kiss
Well be free one day
To love like this
- They dont wanna know
- Trust me
One day they will know
Tell them what we know
Never met someone
Who understands how it feels
Been on my own forever
This feels unreal
A perfect love is what we have
You are my amazing grace
Building bridges
From where we both begin
Youre my savior
From now until the end
I hope that you know
Do you even know
Imagine living outside
Of all the lines
Stolen water is sweet our love divine
They dont wanna know
They will never know
We can move mountains
We could be free now
Follow our passion
Its closer now
Theyll remember who we are
One day for us
Breath to breath, no more fear
I cant have you for myself
Hiding you from me is hard to do
There are moments that I cant deny
How I feel inside for you
Change the world
Watching you make history
Loves the language
The root of everything
Tell them what we know
Tell them what we know
Forbidden love
A flame, a stolen stare
But now pretend
That our loves not really there
They dont wanna know
They dont need to know
They dont need to know
They don't need to know
They don't need to know
Tell them what we know
Tell them what we know
Tell them what we know
Tell them what we know
Tell them what we know
- Yeah
- Tell them what we know
Tell them what we know
[upbeat jazz music playing]