Comics Can Capture First-Person History

MarchBookOne JohnLewis

JohnLewisCounterComicJohnLewisCounterPhotoJohnLewisCivilRights

L to R: Book cover image from Amazon.com; current photograph of U. S. Congressman John Lewis retrieved from https://johnlewis.house.gov/; screen shot of page 100 in March: Book One; photographs in which John Lewis appears retrieved from Google Advanced Images

John Lewis (b. 1940; U. S. Congressman since1986) is a living legend and incredible figure from the 20th century Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Powerful accounts from his life appear as elements of a conversation depicted in March: Book One (Lewis & Aydin, 2013). This title is worthy of attention because it contains exceptional sequential art about a pivotal person and a pivotal era which changed individuals and the nation.

Growing up on an Alabama farm, Lewis’s spiritual passion translated into sermons, baptisms, and funerals for his chickens; he abhorred that they were killed for food. He was a black boy with a smart mind and a treasured education. He paid attention to segregation, Rosa Parks, racist murders, and the ideas of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Driven by the exigent need for the establishment of black civil rights, Lewis marched straight into the horrific dangers of nonviolent activism. Neither racism nor injustice, nor jail, nor beatings stopped him from spending his adult life as a nonviolent icon and a national leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

The passions and horrors of that time appeared in ‘black and white’ newspaper articles and photographs, and on black-and-white TV. (I saw these images myself.) Features of March: Book One keep this history and her lessons vibrant in black, white, and gray once again. The panels appear as if to be photographs laid out and bound together, but this comic goes beyond facsimile. The layouts change constantly and backgrounds alternate between dark and light. Gutters and lines move ceaselessly. There are meaningful perspectives, effective narration, and concisely-worded philosophic assertions. Subtle musical notes recap lasting folk music that rose up from turmoil and change. Readers will be moved, educated, and eager to absorb more about John Lewis and the Civil Rights Movement in March: Book Two (Lewis & Aydin, 2015).

PLEASE NOTE: The drive of Lewis and others was rallied by another comic: Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story (Fellowship of, Hassler, & Resnik, 1958). See the next post (March 8, 2016) for further information.

References

Congressman John Lewis: Representing Georgia’s 5th District. (n.d.). Retrieved on March 6, 2016 from https://johnlewis.house.gov/

Fellowship of Reconciliation, Hassler, A., & Resnik, B. (1958). Martin Luther King and the Montgomery story. Nyack, NY: Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Lewis, J., & Aydin, A. (2013). March: Book one. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf.

Lewis, J., & Aydin, A. (2015). March: Book two. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf.

 

2 thoughts on “Comics Can Capture First-Person History

  1. Your take on comics being used as primary sources is important. This particular work would be excellent in libraries or classrooms, and would serve to expand unfamiliar readers’ (adult or otherwise) perception of the range of stories told in comics.

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  2. Yes, this comic is an example of highly relevant literature for history education. Not having formally studied the era (I was young during the Civil Rights Movement, and at the time it was part of daily news and ‘current events’ discussions), there are details about John Lewis that I was not aware of until I read March: Book One. The copy I read is held in an adult collection in a public library. I would love to also see a copy in a YA collection.

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