In a harrowing but ultimately uplifting account, Georgia Congressman John Lewis (b. 1940) tells what led him to join the Civil Rights Movement in March Book One, the first of a graphic novel trilogy co-written by Lewis & Anthony Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell.
While preparing to attend the inauguration of President-Elect Obama in 2009, Lewis is visited by an African American woman who wants her two young sons to learn about the work of Lewis and other Civil Rights pioneers. In flashbacks, Lewis shows his guests and the readers what life was like living in segregated Alabama on his parents’ chicken farm and how persons of color were discriminated against. A meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1958 over trying to get into a whites-only university helps to influence Lewis into joining the Civil Rights movement, which preaches non-violence.
Lewis goes into detail how he and fellow protestors were trained to not respond to racial slurs or physical attacks, and how their sit-in protests in whites-only department store lunch counters in Nashville eventually led to the counters being desegregated in 1960. This was no mean feat; Lewis and his fellow activists faced violent threats, got arrested several times, and were jailed before the mayor of Nashville conceded in their favor.
Book One ends with that important victory. But there’s more to John Lewis’ story, as we will see.