Unless you’ve had the good fortune to live under a rock, you’ll probably know all about the political situation in the United States. For many, the presidency of Donald Trump has been cause for fear and anger, with many marching in demonstrations not only in the US, but across the planet.
There’s a great history of protesting, peacefully and otherwise, in the United States. Most notably is the civil rights movement in the 1950’s-60’s for its great success despite the struggles of both peaceful and violent protesters against a dangerous and violent norm. March follows those peaceful protesters in the American South — more specifically it is a first-hand account of US Congressman John Lewis. These three volumes follow Lewis as young man in the early days of the civil rights movement through until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by Lyndon Johnson.
Volume One chronicles Lewis as a child growing up in the South, through his early college days when he became active in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Alabama. Volume Two focuses on the freedom rides through the South and the dangers that the riders faced — they were often jailed, beaten, attacked, and sometimes murdered for their actions. Lewis becomes head of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and the book ends after the famous March on Washington in August of 1963. Lewis was in the lineup of speakers that came before Dr. King’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Finally in Volume Three, we get the events in Selma, Alabama when black citizens attempted to gain the right to vote. This third volume chronicles some of the most violent and horrifying, yet powerful, events of the Civil Rights Movement.
I first heard of March when Representative John Lewis spoke out against Trump and boycotted the inauguration. As a result of his actions, and Trump’s fury, sales of these books and Walking with the Wind skyrocketed. I am sad to say that I had not heard of Lewis before these recent events, but am so thankful I sought out March to find out more about this remarkable man. Like most American kids, I learned about the civil rights movement in school. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what happened, but I now know that I got a very, very sanitized version of events. Lewis does not shy away from the level of violence against men, women, and children at the hands of their fellow citizens — the Children’s Crusade and the three Selma to Montgomery marches are a good example of this.
The books are graphic novels and you see what happened to these people very clearly — the medium enhances Lewis’ honest telling of events. As horrifying and unsettling as a lot of the content is, the artwork makes these books incredibly readable and compelling. I would have devoured them if they were recommended reading in high school history class.
These books should be read by anyone who is protesting or just mad about the current political situation — both inside the United States and in the rest of the world. They should be read by anyone who wonders if peaceful protests work. They should be read by anyone who is on the fence about recent developments in the US, particularly women’s, LGBTQ, and immigrant’s rights. These books will make your blood boil, give you hope, and show you how ordinary people can change the world for the better.
If you only read one thing this year, I urge you to read March.