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.
Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.
As my knowledge of American history is relatively very new, I only got to know about Rep. John Lewis and his contribution to the Civil Rights movement a few years ago when I was living in Atlanta; around the same time the third part of this graphic novel won the National Book Award. I’ve wanted to read this series since then but it never worked out, and it’s such a shame on my part that it took this great leader’s demise to make me pick it up. But even if it’s late, I think it’s never not the right time to remember our history and learn more about the people who are the reason for us having so many of our rights today.
I thought the story was really endearing because it’s told as Rep. Lewis getting ready to attend President Obama’s inauguration, but stopping to answer some questions for a couple of little Black boys visiting his office. And learning about an innocent boy who loved taking care of the chickens on the farm, his profound desire to become a preacher which even led to sermonizing to the chickens, and ultimately realizing that he can do so much more in the fight for civil rights while studying at a seminary – it’s a very very inspirational narrative. I had only heard about the lunch counter sit-ins but reading/seeing it and understanding how it was all being done by masses of students who felt called to fight for their rights is really admirable, and reminds us again why we see so many young people on the streets these days – they are always on the forefront when fighting for radical changes.
The art style is kept black and white, probably to evoke the aesthetic of the 50s and it’s simple but very evocative and powerful. The violence depicted is also kept very sanitized, probably because this book is catering towards a much younger audience but I’m sure it might not be fully avoidable in the next parts.
On the whole, I think this book/series is a wonderful resource for young Americans to know more about their Civil Rights history and one of its most powerful leaders, especially the events which might not always be taught in detail in school. I found it to be very powerful, emotional and inspirational, and I can’t wait to get to part two. Let’s all remember this great leader who suffered so much for the lives we enjoy today, and take up the mantle upon our shoulders to continue to cause “good trouble”, as he called it.