March: Book One is the first in a series of three graphic novels that provide context to and details about the civil rights movement in the United States.
This series provides a vivid explanation about events that you may have only heard a little about (or briefly saw photos of on social media). It’s also a great resource for people who are interested in using non-violent civil disobedience as a form of protest.
The March series focuses on the life of John Lewis. You might recognize that name because he is a United States Representative in the House of Representatives. He is a Democrat who represents Georgia’s 5th District.
The series was written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. The art was done by Nate Powell.
March: Book One juxtaposes scenes from different times. It starts with a scene of an adult John Lewis on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. The next scene shows Representative John Lewis waking up, getting ready, and going to his office to speak with people. Next, we go back in time to when John Lewis was a child and living with his family in rural Alabama.
This way of storytelling, by jumping around in time, is used in each book in the series. Everything gets put into context by the time you finish the trilogy.
When John Lewis was a child, he was given the task of caring for the family’s chickens. His father was a sharecropper. Right from the start, John Lewis treated those chickens with love and good care. He talked to them, gave them names, and even built an incubator to make his chicken’s lives easier.
John Lewis began preaching to his chickens, already aware that he wanted to someday become a preacher. It seems the chickens listened intently. He baptized the baby chickens, and was extremely distraught when it looked like the baptism had killed one of them. Fortunately, the baby chicken survived.
It seems to me that most children of sharecroppers would not have invested so much love and care into the chickens they were tasked with raising. I think this story is there to show that, from a young age, John Lewis intrinsically felt a need to care for those around him, and to do what he could to improve the lives of others.
The story also shows the origins of his need to protest in a non-violent way. When one of young John’s chickens was on the family’s dinner table as the main course – he protested by not coming to dinner.
John Lewis was a student when Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on the bus to a white man who demanded it. The Montgomery Bus Boycott followed. He was a student when segregation – separating white children and black children into different schools – was outlawed.
John Lewis first heard Martin Luther King preach on the radio, and was so impressed by King’s words that he set out to read everything he could about him. Later, John Lewis got to meet Martin Luther King, who wanted to talk to him about his choice to attend a white college. That choice could result in acts of violence not only against John, but also to his family.
In college, John Lewis became part of a group of students who were interested in protesting for civil rights in non-violent ways. The group included both black and white students; both male and female students. This is the group that began the lunch counter sit-ins.
Before heading out, every member of the group was trained on how to handle verbal and physical violence that would be directed at them by angry white people who wanted every public place to remain segregated. I had read about the lunch counter sit-ins, and knew that things got violent. March: Book One makes the violence that was inflicted upon the protestors absolutely clear. It made me feel sick.
All the protestors wanted was the right to sit at a lunch counter, be served clean food, and to eat their lunch. They were non-violently insisting that they be given the same rights as white people. The protestors asked to be served, and then silently sat and waited to be served. They did not fight back when they were punched, pushed, or otherwise physically assaulted. They did not fight back when they were arrested.
The organization later became known as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC (pronounced “snick”). You’ll hear more about them in the second and third book of the March trilogy.
This book review of March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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