Monday, February 13, 2017

March, Book 1: Civil Rights history in comics

“Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.” (…)

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement. Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.”

(Text from the publisher's website; see also the back cover)

Congressman John Lewis wanted to be a preacher. He grew up on his parents' farm in rural Alabama taking care of the family chickens (to whom he was practising preaching!). The story starts in his congressional office as he is preparing to go assist at Obama's inauguration. A black lady comes into the office with her children to show them up a place where history was made. Instead they meet with the Congressman himself who takes this opportunity to tell them a little about himself and the history of the civil rights movement. With the help of his uncle Otis and Martin Luther King, Jr., to whom he wrote a letter, he succeed to go to college in Nashville. There, he contributed to the Student Movement and, inspired by Gandhi's nonviolent protest, took many actions to fight against segregation.


The storytelling is excellent and the art is pretty good. It is a superb idea to bring back to life Congressman Lewis' memories, such as his actions of civil disobedience, for a new generation to understand what the civil rights movement was all about. It is very educational and it is probably even more relevant today than when it was first published (considering the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the fact that I discovered this book through a CNN report about President Trump insulting Congressman Lewis, saying he was “all talk and no action” !).

All in all, it's a nice way to teach the history of an important moment of our Western Civilization, but also an excellent occasion to talk about good moral values. The life of great role models like Congressman Lewis need to be recorded for the posterity, but not only in history books or museums but also as part of our popular culture. It's a good reading for the Black History Month and I cannot recommend it more strongly.

March: Book One, by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Marietta GA: Top Shelf Productions, August 2013. 128 pg., Softcover, 6.5" x 9.5", 14.95 US / $19.99 Can. ISBN: 978-1-60309-300-2.

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