March by John Lewis
March is a three-part graphic memoir that tells the story of John Lewis and his role in the US civil rights movement. While the whole thing is relatively short, being a graphic novel, it manages to cover a lot more than the US school system ever does. And that’s just sad.
Nonfiction, memoir, graphic novel
Before he became a respected Congressman, John Lewis was clubbed, gassed, arrested over 40 times, and nearly killed by angry mobs and state police, all while nonviolently protesting racial discrimination. He marched side-by-side with Martin Luther King as the youngest leader of the Civil Rights Movement that would change a nation forever.
Now, experience John Lewis' incredible story first-hand, brought to life in a stunning graphic novel trilogy. With co-writer Andrew Aydin and Eisner Award-winning artist Nate Powell, John Lewis' MARCH tells the story of how a poor sharecropper's son helped transform America, from a segregated schoolhouse to the 1963 March on Washington and beyond.
The book explores Lewis’s childhood and his growth into a civil rights activist, with occasional flash-forwards to Obama’s election. The tension between the two differing civil rights tactics, that of non-violence and that of militarist tactics, is shown, but also the ways in which both groups were united under their common goal.
Also shown is the ways in which respectability politics had to be challenged, and organizations like the NAACP were often too conservative in their methods and in what they pushed for. Lewis and other activists wanted full civil rights, not compromises. And while he and others disagrees with Malcom X’s militarist tactics, he acknowledges the logic of it and emphasizes that Malcom X was an ally, not an enemy.
I did wish there had been more about the women of the movement. It was very male-focused, and hardly any women or their contributions were mentioned, namely Rosa Parks. Black women were a major part of the movement and don’t get enough acknowledgment, so it was disappointing that March only focused on the achievements of Black men.
Overall, though, it was very good and portrays the emotions Lewis felt in the time. It feels immediate and visceral, not some dry historical event. That’s important, as the civil rights movement is far from over, and Jim Crow didn’t happen that long ago.
A quick and worthwhile book.