Comic Review: March
Publisher Website: John Lewis (Author), Andrew Aydin (Author), Nate Powell (Artist)
Stars: Mandatory Reading
The Civil Rights movement has been taught and retaught to America's youth for generations. This, however, is a part of that history you've never heard of. Taken from the perspective of the famous movement's second fiddle. Congressmen John Lewis.
Hints Of: History, its history
Warning: It rehashes the civil rights era so if you're not into that...get uncomfortable
Discover the inside story of the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of one of its most iconic figures, Congressman John Lewis. March is the award-winning, #1 bestselling graphic novel trilogy recounting his life in the movement, co-written with Andrew Aydin and drawn by Nate Powell. This commemorative set contains all three volumes of March in a beautiful slipcase.
The past few weeks have been one of pivotal and necessary change in our country. Since the murder of George Floyd there are renewed cries to value the life of our black and brown neighbors. I had wanted to read this series since my wife purchased them back in 2014 and I thought that now would be the perfect time to crack them open.
March, is a visual retelling of the civil rights movement from the perspective of one of it's most iconic leaders, John Lewis. Throughout the series it also retells the inauguration of America's first Black president, Barack Obama. Congressmen Lewis is getting ready for the ceremony while discussing his past to a pair of sons. He describes is childhood and how experiences he had set him up for a life of service to the public. From preaching to his chickens to sneaking out of chores to go to school daily in Pike County, Alabama. He recalls a trip up north where his Uncle lived and the care and preparations that had to be made for that trip including where colored bathrooms were along the route. He discusses the creation of youth organizations that participated and lead the lunch counter sit ins in Nashville and the journey of non-violence that he would grow up to become famous for. All with the backdrop of Obama, a black man, becoming president.
While reading I reflected on the past two weeks in our country. Multiple times in the novel there were visuals of law enforcement standing by while Lewis and his friends were beaten for simply wanting a meal or movie ticket. The opening scene is the famous march over Edmund Pettus bridge where police adamantly refuse to let the peaceful protesters complete the journey over the bridge. You'd think they were blocking the entire road but alas they were marching on the sidewalk, allowing cars to continue to drive if not for the blockade made by the police. It made me think about our current situation and the role of police in our current history. Much has been improved and yet much is still wrong.
I had the pleasure to hear a speech from Congressman Lewis before the Women's March in Atlanta, GA. The one thing that rang true to me during that speech was the phrase "Good Trouble". Lewis' life is based in nonviolence, his parents told him when he was young to "Stay out of trouble" and "Don't get in the way". Lewis knew this was wrong but was the way of his parents' generation. Good Trouble, according to Lewis, is getting in the way of things you know to be wrong and you know you should change but doing it in a way of nonviolence and peace. That mantra fueled our passion that day to march and it fueled Lewis' past and current politics. One scene that stuck out to me in March was Lewis being told they should protest a different way for fear of serious retaliation. Lewis stuck to his morals and repeated the phrase "We're gonna march" to every question posed to him.
March is a series written "for the past and future children of the movement". That phrase written at the prologue of each of the three books is what John wants us to remember while reading. Lewis and Aydin wanted this novel to be able to reach children and teach them about this event in their country. What better way to reach them then through the visuals created by Powell. The black and white drawing focuses the reader on the issues at hand and still makes it visually appealing to read. The simplistic drawings allow children to receive the visual stimulation required to keep them engaged but the words are still the focus.
March is mandatory reading for all of a part of our history we've all been told but need a constant reminder of every once in a while. Never be discouraged by the journey of progress. Always get into Good Trouble and We're Gonna March because that's what Americans do.