Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.
Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.
Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.
Rating: 5 Stars
It’s taken me awhile to get to this graphic novel and I am enjoying it so much now that I’ve made the time. I wish that I had all the sooner for many reasons.
This book is important because it’s a part of history. It’s John Lewis’s experience growing up during segregation and working with the Civil Rights movement. I don’t recall much of my grade school education regarding this, but a refresher should be required for everyone because forgetting something like this will only doom us as a country to repeat the horribleness of those years.
The story was a blend between modern day, when John Lewis is getting ready to attend the inauguration of America’s first African-American President and his growing up in Alabama. He’s relating some parts of the story to two young black men whose mother or grandmother has brought them to his office to learn about their history; other parts are, I think, private reminiscences. Reading them and realizing not only that he went through these events, but that, except for the hard work of a great many brave men and women, these two little boys could have been in the same position, I found myself feeling heartsick. It was an emotional read and this is only volume one, from John Lewis’s home as a child on his parents’ farm to the march on City Hall. I’m looking forward, both with anticipation and apprehension, to the next two volumes.
I think the art was well done. A lot of comics can be too harsh when done in a simple two tone style like this, but this application was just right. I think it was done in graphite or charcoal. Whatever the actual medium, it lent a softness to the panels that juxtaposed with the harshness of the material. I thought it was an interesting choice to contrast them so well because the harsh lines of strictly ink might’ve been too harsh and detracted from the story, but this manner compliment the events being relayed.
This is an important, historically relevant book that ought to be read very widely. Not only would it be a complement to school plans, but people who’ve graduated would do well to remind themselves of where our country has been and what has been done to the people living in it. It serves no one to forget.