Book: March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Genre: Graphic “novel” autobiography
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Publication date: 2016
Summary: The third volume of John Lewis’s autobiography, March, begins with tragedy on September 15, 1963 — the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the murder of four little girls wearing church shoes and dresses. Less than a month after the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he spoke at the girls’ funeral:
These children–unoffending, innocent, and beautiful–were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity. And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and dignity–and so this afternoon, in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their deaths. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. pp. 17-18
Thoughts: I read the first two volumes of March with my book club (covered in this round-up post). You definitely want to read all three to get the full picture, each volume begins shortly after the previous one ended. Together they tell the exciting history of the Civil Rights Movement as witnessed by one of the younger participants at that time, Congressman John Lewis.
One thing that struck me was the account of discord within the Movement. It’s the same discord that we encounter today within the broad, loosely-tied, coalition that operates under the banner of Black Lives Matter. Are we fighting for reform or revolution? Should our strategies be designed to win over hearts and minds or to win an epic battle against oppressive forces? Should our tactics be cajoling or confronting or combative?
I suspect that now, as then, the answer is all of the above. It’s going to take many people engaged with this movement in many different ways to end racism and all the other -isms present in this country. I’m going to choose my lane and follow it. I won’t be judgmental about how other people choose to approach this issue, especially those who are more oppressed than I am. And, equally, I don’t let the judgment of others stop me in my tracks. I consider their point of view carefully, examine my own heart and actions, and then proceed the best way that I know how.
I wanted to post this review today because of the wrapper story. All three of the volumes are presented as John Lewis’s memories on the day that Barack Obama was inaugurated, January 20, 2009. I cried when I got to the moment when President Obama greeted John Lewis at the afternoon reception.
One page contains the loud announcement “The President of the United States” and the pictures showing President Obama’s entrance. The facing page has no words at all — the President and the Congressman approach each other. They hug. Congressman Lewis takes a moment to dry his eyes with a handkerchief. He hands the President a card to autograph. Turn the page and we get to see what President Obama wrote:
Because of you, John
This is what democracy looks like. Vote!
Appeal: For anyone who wants to understand the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s in a way that is both intellectual and emotional. If you haven’t tried the graphic novel format, give this a shot. The presentation makes history come alive on the page.
Have you read this book? What did you think?