The graphic novel series March, by John Lewis, provides a whole new perspective on the Civil Rights movement in America in the 1960s. The detailed illustrations make the story come to life in a way that you just can’t get with a normal novel. This easy read helps one to understand the events of the Civil Rights movement and the effect those events had. It shows us the less publicized happenings in segregated towns and offers terrifying insight on the violence that African-American communities and their allies underwent.
The stories follow the life of John Lewis from his family’s farm in rural Alabama to the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Lewis talks about the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), a student-established organization that would participate in sit-ins and peaceful marches. This behind-the-scenes insight shows us how the students tested their limits to see if they could truly be nonviolent and loving toward the people who were beating them. These books do not shy away from the violence that young and old African-Americans faced throughout the movement.
The three books describe events that you may not have heard about in history class but which were just as influential in turning the tide of the movement. March also introduces us to historic figures who worked behind the scenes of the movement and are not given the limelight in our history books. One example would be Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, whose emotional testimony about her brutal treatment while in police custody was so powerful that President Johnson interrupted the television broadcast with an impromptu press conference because he was frightened by how people might react if they heard her story. Her testimony was later rebroadcast on the evening news and went on to have a major political impact.
An interesting juxtaposition is the scene changes between the fight for civil rights and President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. The comparison shows how far John Lewis has come through his lifetime and how much he has seen from his childhood in the segregated South to his election as Congressman to witnessing the first African-American President’s term. His story gives so much inspiration to the people today working hard to make this country home for everyone. Hopefully, you will find this book series as inspirational as I did.