Tuesday, August 09, 2016
Congressman John Lewis’ Long March Toward Justice: March: Book One
Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is considered by many to be something of an American political icon. Lewis’ own commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress itself. He was first elected to Congress in November of ‘86 and has faithfully served as Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District ever since. Not only was he one of the key figures of the civil rights movement of the 1960s but he actually met and worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during that time. Congressman Lewis’ story began in 1940 as the son of sharecroppers. He went to school in a segregated Alabama schoolroom and became inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott as well as the words of Dr. King he became involved in the Civil Rights movement, eventually becoming a nationally recognized leader. In ‘63, he was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement when, at 23, he was not only an architect of but a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington.
March is Lewis’ personally-told, extremely vivid, first-hand account of the Congressman’s lifelong struggle for individual dignity, civil and human rights, and accountability. Beginning during the days of Jim Crow Laws and segregation, and firmly rooted in Lewis’ own story, March deals both reflectively and intimately on the highs and lows of the much larger civil rights movement. As Lewis spins his tale of growing up in the repressive South as a Black man who was bound and determined to become educated so as to live a better life, we (as readers) come to better understand the hardships and struggles through which he and others went through to achieve (even a small) measure of equality.
Throughout this emotionally-moving story we become a part of his struggle for equality, where he received beatings from state troopers, to ultimately, receiving the Medal of Freedom in 2010 from the first African-American president, Barack Obama. Now, with this graphic novel, Lewis, has chosen to share his remarkable story with a new generation, he has penned March, relating his own, very personal story. The book — written in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin (who is a staffer for the Congressman) and illustrated by New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).
This is actually just the first installment of a planned trilogy that covers Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing, initial meeting with Dr. King, the birth of the Nashville Student Movement (which he helped found), and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. Throughout the story, we read about the atrocities perpetrated upon Lewis and his fellow protesters as they struggle to simply achieve the basic human rights that have been denied to them because of the color of their skin. Given the events in Ferguson, as well as the 2014 biopic Selma (which chronicled the events in that city when Dr. King, Lewis, and others marched across The Edmund Pettus Bridge for civil rights in 1965, forever altering the political and social landscape in America), the release of this book, is a very important publication that should be read by anyone interested in politics, current events, history, and social equality.
Congressman Lewis relates in this first book of March, how he grew up poor on a rural farm in Georgia, and the struggles with which he, his family, and the other Blacks from that time and that place were confronted with. He talks about his struggles to get an education as he fought against racial inequality. The book spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, leading up to his life-changing meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as his involvement with the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and that organization’s fight to end segregation through their many nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, and culminates in a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. All of this is told against the backdrop of Lewis attending the initial inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2008.
In the back of the book, there is a text feature that reveals how many years ago, Representative Lewis and the other student activists who worked with him drew inspiration from the 1958 comicbook entitled, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.
Now, Lewis presents his own story in his own comic in order to bring those days back to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations. Top Shelf (publisher of March), has re-issued that Dr. King comic, and both are currently available from Top Shelf, as is the second volume of March.
A third volume of the Congressman's autobiography is due to to be released in October of 2016 and will also be available from both Top Shelf as well as on Amazon, Barns & Noble and other book sellers.