March Books One, Two, and Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and illustrator Nate Powell will go down in history as some of the best graphic non-fiction ever created. Telling the story of Congressman John Lewis’ fight during the 1950s and 1960s civil rights movement, these books show the bravery of Lewis and friends who stepped up to challenge the status quo.
Since I’m talking about all three books, I won’t go over everything they cover, but know Book One starts in January 2009 at President Obama’s inauguration. While Lewis prepares for the day, he thinks back to everything he endured to get there, which is when the story jumps to the past. Throughout the March books we get a close look at start of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), lunch counter sit-ins, school segregation, Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the struggle for voting rights, Selma, and so much more.
Through everything, Lewis doesn’t shy away from showing how scary, dangerous, and deadly this all was. In protest after protest, and arrest after arrest, we see the beatings and murders of those fighting this struggle. Four little girls burned alive in a church. White cops killing black kids. Voter registration volunteers killed. These books are powerful in their brutal honesty.
And they also show how badass John Lewis is. I knew Lewis’ past, that he was a founder of the SNCC, that he was involved in the Freedom Rides, that he led lunch counter sit-ins and protests for voting rights, etc. He is credited as being one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement, so his name and many of his accomplishments were not new to me, but seeing them in this light made them even more real. The graphic depictions alongside Lewis’ story made my heart pound. Seeing him in these protests, on the buses, in hospital rooms, and at the front of so much of this action was remarkable. I love that they chose to graphically display this story because it was fantastic seeing the emotions on the faces of people, the crowds, the beatings, everything. It worked so well to bring even more of this story to light.
You should also know I cried multiple times reading these books. I cried for the absurdity of it all. For the courage of these people. For the violence against and murder of so many. For the fact that we still, in 2016, have so far to go. And for the fact that I don’t know if I would have had the power, strength, and courage all these people had. They were yelled at, spit on, beaten, and they kept on pushing. Seeing others murdered around them just made them push harder. Hell, I’m crying now thinking about it.
These are a must read and I hope they are read in high schools for years to come. Thank you, John Lewis.