March, Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin with art by Nate Powell
Genre: Memoir, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Publication Date: 2013
Source: Copy provided by the publisher
The Short Version:
Congressman John Lewis puts his story and the larger story of the Civil Rights movement in graphic memoir format.
Why I Read It:
I happened to get an email offering me a digital edition of this on the day of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Bloody Sunday in Selma. It seemed like a perfect day to read this.
From the publisher:
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.
Even before I got the email offering a digital copy of this Graphic Memoir I had heard from several people I trust that it was a well done memoir in comic format so it was an easy choice for me to read it. The fact that I was reading it on the 50th anniversary on the events on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama made it even more impactful.
The story opens with John Lewis remembering events of that day on the bridge as he is getting ready to attend the Barack Obama’s inauguration as president. After that introduction the story shifts back to Lewis’s childhood and then follows him as he grows up and meets Dr, Martin Luther King and becomes part of the civil rights movement.
It moves back and forth with various flashbacks as told by the Congressman to visitors in his office that day. Nate Powell’s artwork is dark and fitting of a noir mystery book in many places but it vividly portrays the events of Congressman Lewis’s life.
A couple of interesting things:
I think the importance of this memoir in this format is clear when Lewis tells how part of his introduction to Martin Luther King also came in the form of a comic book.
The practice and training that the young people who staged the lunch counter sit ins went through is an important fact. The non-violent resistance was something they had to learn, teach and practice in order for it to be effective. I am in awe of the sheer guts it took.
I am eagerly anticipating the next volume in this series and I’m on the waiting list at the library.