Friday, February 10, 2017
March: Book One by John Lewis
Congressman John Lewis has been in the news recently, which caused his graphic novel trilogy, March, to appear on bestseller lists and sell out on Amazon. The third volume, March: Book Three, won the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
Featuring stark, black and white illustrations by Nate Powell and co-written with Andrew Aydin, March: Book One begins on the morning of January 20, 2009—the day of President Obama’s first inauguration. Congressman Lewis is shown preparing for the big day. Just before the ceremony, he is greeted by a mother and her two young boys, which leads to Lewis telling the story of his upbringing as the son of sharecroppers in rural Alabama.
The narrative switches between Inauguration Day and key moments from Lewis’s past: growing up in the segregated south; wanting to become a minister; meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for the first time; and experiencing other life-changing events that inspired Lewis to join the civil rights movement.
There are also glimpses of humor, like when Lewis recalls his love for the chickens on his family’s farm, who would serve as his impromptu congregation when he practiced his sermons.
Juxtaposed against these lighthearted anecdotes are the brutal retellings of conflicts from the height of the civil rights movement. After meeting leaders such as Dr. King, Lewis felt a call to action as a young man in college and became involved in nonviolent protests. Although Lewis and his group were strongly against violence, their sit-ins led to police involvement, which resulted in Lewis and his fellow protestors being beaten and arrested.
Eventually, Lewis’s group was successful in pressuring the mayor of Nashville to desegregate lunch counters. March: Book One ends on a cautiously hopeful note, with the realization that although they had won a small victory, their greater work had just begun. The following volumes in this trilogy lead up to the fateful march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965.
March: Book One, Book Two, and Book Three. Book Three was recently honored with four Youth Media Awards from the American Library Association. If you enjoy this series, you might also enjoy Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change, also by Lewis. For another civil rights biography in graphic novel format, check out I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., by A. R. Flowers.