Written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Illustrated by Nate Powell (Top Shelf Productions)
Readers unfamiliar with graphic novels might consider the March trilogy overgrown comic books. If so, they should realize the superheroes whose stories they tell—the champions of the civil rights movement—don’t wear capes and cowls or battle evildoers with their fists. Instead, most wear suits and ties, and they practice nonviolent resistance. In fact, at their best, they kneel and pray for those who curse them, spit on them and beat them.
Congressman John Lewis and his aide Andrew Aydin teamed up with artist Nate Powell to create a three-volume graphic novel to tell the story of the civil rights movement through a medium accessible to the rising generation. Even so, March is not kid stuff. At least, it is not aimed at elementary school children, although it deservedly has become required reading in some middle schools and high schools.
Lewis and his collaborators pull no punches in recounting the brutality and degrading language peaceful protesters endured. Told from Lewis’ point of view as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the graphic novel in three parts unflinchingly portrays his experiences and the horrific violence civil rights activists faced—from the early days of lunch counter sit-ins to Bloody Sunday and the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.
March also transparently presents the strong personalities whose competing visions ultimately divided the civil rights movement. Lewis, Aydin and Powell respectfully and honestly portray the Christian roots out of which the movement grew, without presenting any of the characters involved as sinless saints. Leaders of the movement were on the side of the angels, but they were human.
Winner of the National Book Award and multiple other honors, March tells an important story in an engaging manner.
Ken Camp, managing editor