I recently wrote an article for Reading with Pictures on a teaching resource for Congressman John Lewis’ graphic novel, March: Book One. As I said in that article, March is one of those books that is so powerful, you just have to sit, maybe even with your eyes closed, and process it all once you’ve finished it.
I grew up in New York, in the the post-Civil Rights era. Segregation is something I’ve only ever read about in a school textbook and seen in documentaries. For each successive generation, the American Civil Rights movement is something that becomes less tangible – they know it happened, but it’s history. It happened; they overcame – right?
That is why March: Book One is so important.
March is Congressman John Lewis’ visual memoir. Co-written with Andrew Aydin, it is a first-hand story of the Civil Rights movement and those who shaped it; it is a picture of America at a critical time in our development. In Book One, we meet the Congressman as a young boy – the son of an Alabama sharecropper who hid from his chores so that he could attend school – and follow his story all the way through to his involvement with the famous Montgomery lunch counter sit-ins. The story, told against the backdrop of President Barack Obama’s January 2009 inauguration day, provides an amazing study in how the Civil Right movement still resonates with us.
Eisner award-winning, New York Times artist Nate Powell’s black and white illustrations are as haunting as they are powerful. Reading the panels detailing the abuse suffered by the civil rights pioneers as they peacefully assembled provoked a visceral reaction – a figurative gut-punch. There is a starkness to the artwork that evokes a feeling of despair at points, particularly when depicting the anger, the rage, on the faces of those mobs that pushed back against Lewis and his comrades in arms. At the same time, the artwork provides a beautiful simplicity that allows readers to focus on the story and its players.
MARCH: BOOK ONE is an incredible story, told by a man who helped make history. It should be read and discussed in every classroom. To help with that goal, MARCH’s publisher, Top Shelf Productions, offers a free, 11-page teachers’ resource, downloadable at the publisher’s website (link: http://www.topshelfcomix.com/contact/teachers-guide).
March is on sale at booksellers and comic book stores now. Buy it. Go to the library and request it. Read it and talk about it.
MARCH: BOOK ONE
Writers: Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Artist: Nate Powell
Publisher: Top Shelf Comix
Pub Date: August 13, 2013