Series Review: March

Series Review: MarchMarch: Book One
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Illustrated by Nate Powell
Series: March #1
Published 2013 by Top Shelf Productions
128 pages. Trade Paperback
Genres: Comics, Nonfiction, Memoir, History

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.

I can’t speak for other areas of the country, but in Alabama we spend a good amount of time learning about the Civil Rights movement. Alabama was at the center of the movement, especially Birmingham and Montgomery. I remember studying it, but it’s really interesting to read about it from John Lewis’s perspective. Following his journey from his poor, rural childhood to the Nashville Student Movement was really interesting. I don’t remember learning much about the sit-ins in Nashville, so a lot of that was new for me. This volume also offers a good amount of information on non-violent protesting and the training involved. It was a truly inspiring read.

I got to meet Congressman Lewis not long after reading this, which was a huge honor. I also got to hear him speak at the YALSA Morris and Nonfiction Awards Ceremony, where he almost brought me to tears.

Series Review: MarchMarch: Book Two
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Illustrated by Nate Powell
Series: March #2
Published 2015 by Top Shelf Productions
192 pages. Trade Paperback
Genres: Comics, Nonfiction, Memoir, History

After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence - but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before.

Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy... and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the "Big Six" leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

It was during this volume that I became appalled by my lack of knowledge (or perhaps memory) of some of these events. I think most of my Civil Rights movement education surrounded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I remember talking about the racist legislation and the open racism. I remember reading the famous speeches. There’s just something about the graphic format of this series that really underscores the horror of what was happening to black people in the South during this time. It’s one thing to be told about the mobs and the dogs and the beatings. It’s something else to see it depicted. It makes this particular volume much more difficult to read, though it’s certainly worthwhile.

This volume included the march on Washington and John Lewis’s speech. I decided to pull up the Youtube video and listen to him speak while I read that portion. I highly recommend doing that. It’s a powerful speech on the page, but it’s even more powerful to hear John Lewis speak those words. I had never heard or read his speech before and it was particularly inspiring and uplifting in the wake of the political division we’re experiencing in the country now.

Series Review: MarchMarch: Book Three
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Series: March #3
Published 2016 by Top Shelf Productions
246 pages. Trade Paperback
Genres: Comics, Nonfiction, Memoir, History

Welcome to the stunning conclusion of the award-winning and best-selling MARCH trilogy. Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today's world.

This volume focuses on the movement after the Birmingham Church Bombing up to the march on Selma. Lewis covers the growing tensions in SNCC and how the movement came together and made change happen. It took me longer than I expected to get through this one because so much of it is sad and horrifying. This wasn’t that long ago and people’s genuine hatred towards others always seems to amaze me. I just don’t understand feeling that way. While the things happening in the U.S. now don’t compare to the sheer violence of what Lewis and other black Americans went through, I found the anger towards the civil rights of other humans to be alarmingly familiar to the rhetoric I’m hearing today. John Lewis’s message of peaceful protest, good trouble, and the movement is truly inspiring. What an important book!

This book is part of my 2017 Read Harder Challenge for a book set within 100 miles of my location.

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