March: Book One by Congressman John Robert Lewis is an unwavering look at the civil rights movement of the sixties. A movement Congressman Lewis was and still is a powerful supporter and activist of.
This graphic novel is a first hand account, a memoir in comic book form, of Lewis’ early life in rural Alabama and his life changing encounter with Dr. Martin Luther King. A meeting that set Lewis on the path of non-violent protests against the injustices of the South during the civil rights movement. March is also a testament to the journey of the movement from the early days of segregation to the battles for equality in all phases of life. It tells it’s tale as Lewis is preparing to witness the swearing in of Barack Obama and how this moment is the culmination of the sacrifices and work he was a part of in the early days of the movement. From the sit-ins, to the bus rides, to the eventual March.
March is an important if disturbing work. Brilliant and still painful to recollect the reality of what was and still can be, only a few short decades ago.
The black and white artwork is stark and unassuming, allowing the actual story to be central to the book.
March: Book Two chronicles the events in the life of Congressman John Lewis after the early success of student protests in Nashville, Tennessee. Building on this early success, John Lewis is as committed as ever to change the world through non-violent protest.
As he and his fellow Freedom Riders move forward, they face beatings, police brutality and being jailed. Even murder. Lewis and the other young activists face this and more as they fight for their rights and the rights of all black people. But there is also the internal strife and disagreements that come to bear on the movement as different factions play for power from within. Lewis becomes fearful that the non-violent message of his early days is being lost as the activists become more belligerent and less patient with the evil being done to them. But the movement is gathering powerful allies, from Dr. Martin Luther King to Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
The book culminates with the March on the Capital, Washington DC.
March Book two is as scathing a view on America in the 60s as well as the sacrifices made by the people on the ground floor of the movement and the political ramifications of the March as any book available today. Do not be fooled by its graphic novel format. This memoir is an important and profound literary experience that should be shared by everyone. Black or white or any minority. This time period needs to be remembered and not as a Hollywood or PBS special. But in all its ugliness and glory.
A very special read.