Last weekend, John Lewis announced that he would be missing the 2017 inauguration, the first he would miss in thirty years. This comment incited controversy. One of the articles that came up told me that Lewis’s books were selling out in stores across the country, and I was reminded that I still had not read the third volume of Lewis’s comic book trilogy, which was co-written by Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. I immediately went to the store and purchased a beautiful boxed set of all three books. March is John Lewis’s story during the Civil Rights Movement. Hopefully, you can read this article without needing to be warned about spoilers.
March Vol. 1 starts with Lewis getting ready to attend President Obama’s inauguration and flashes back to his childhood up through his initial involvement with the Civil Rights Movement. Volume 2 continues in this style, and Volume 3 wraps it up.
Here’s the part where I review the trilogy: It’s amazing. Seriously.
John Lewis has lived this amazing life, and he accomplished wonderful things. The books give dimension to people like Martin Luther King Jr., who we as a society tend to idealize. It reminds readers that the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t just an idealistic peaceful march. It’s a reminder of the violence and death. Powell’s art style is simple in black and white, but it’s starkness makes the whole story that much more powerful. There are many speeches in the three books aside from the “I Have a Dream” speech, and all of the excerpts are powerful and inspirational. Framing the story within Obama’s inauguration was so clever, and it’s one of the main reasons I’m presenting you with this article on this day.
Reading March reminded me that it wasn’t one speech or one rally that made the difference, but the consistent wearing down of the system. The SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) went to many cities and participated in sit-ins in restaurants, mass voting efforts, and peaceful protests. It was a reminder that the next four years will be difficult, but efforts like the Women’s March, happening tomorrow, will make a difference. If we stand together and speak loudly and peacefully, we will be heard.
March reiterates that Americans have done terrible things, and if they’re white, it gets glossed over. The scene from this book that stood out to me more than any other was that of a sit-in. The protesters walk into a restaurant and sit down at the counter. The owner of the restaurant then locks them in and uses poisonous gas on them. As a Jew, I’m very familiar with what went down in Germany in the 1940’s. I learned about the Civil Rights Movement in a high school in New Jersey. I never learned anything like this. This is not what makes it into those feel-good equality movies. We need to remember this.
I’m so glad that I picked this book up in time to have read it before tomorrow’s Women’s March. I strongly encourage my fellow nerdy activists to pick up this book. Not only will you be supporting a true role model, you will learn so much.