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March: Book Two


March: Book Two

written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell

Imagine the terror. It’s 1961, and you, a black American, are in the cramped back of a bus from Nashville to Birmingham. You and your friends --- men and women, black and white --- have had enough. Enough of years of injustice. Enough of vicious slurs hurled like bricks as you walk down the street, condemning the color of your skin or the company you keep. Enough of a country divided, patting its own back for a commitment to liberty and happiness. Enough of separate but equal, that deep and savage untruth. So you ride --- and on May 17th, you arrive at the Birmingham bus terminal, where a police officer greets you:

“Everyone with a ticket from Nashville to Birmingham, you are to remain on the bus. Everyone else, you’re free to leave.”

"Lewis is as compelling a teller of his own tale as he is a public speaker, and Powell’s illustrations are nothing short of jaw-dropping."

A friend beside you raises his voice. “We have a right to get off this bus,” he says --- just as the officer clubs him in the gut. The bus doors are closed with you still inside. Soon, you hear nothing but the wet sound of slapping as the windows around you are covered in paper, leaving you, in an unmistakably brutal twist of irony, together in the dark. For the next three hours, you sit as the bus stubbornly refuses to move, hearing the sounds of a mob gathering outside.

In 1961, this was John Lewis’ life. Now the congressional representative for Georgia’s fifth district and a venerated civil rights activist, Lewis --- the only living member of the “Big Six” --- was then a young college student who risked his life in hundreds of non-violent demonstrations, acts of civil disobedience intended to bring true freedom and equality to America. “I know that an education is important and I hope to get one,” he once wrote, “but human dignity is the most important thing in my life. This is the most important decision in my life --- to decide to give up all if necessary for the Freedom Ride, that justice and freedom may come to the Deep South.”

In 2013, Lewis released the first of his graphic memoirs, MARCH: Book One, a chronicle of his childhood in the rural South and the beginnings of his career as one of the most influential activists this country has ever seen. The second volume --- co-written with his digital director and policy advisor, Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Eisner and Ignatz Award-winning artist Nate Powell --- picks up where the first left off, documenting some of the most crucial years of the African-American Civil Rights Movement: from 1961 and the early Freedom Rides through 1963 and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.

Even if this book had been middling, filled with dry description and rote illustration, it would have been important --- a document of serious worth to the long and woefully incomplete legacy of undoing American injustice. Luckily, Lewis is as compelling a teller of his own tale as he is a public speaker, and Powell’s illustrations are nothing short of jaw-dropping: a two-page spread of a bus bombing easily counts among the most visceral and memorable illustrations in contemporary comics. MARCH: Book Two is a vital story, beautifully and powerfully told --- a tale of some of the oldest hatreds our nation knows, and of the brave people who unflinchingly held to the principles of non-violence for the sake of a country more than willing to commit violence in turn.

In 1957, Lewis read a 14-page comic called "Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story," which was used to help recruit and train non-violent activists in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. Five decades later, that comic inspired this series. With any luck, like "The Montgomery Story," MARCH will serve as both roadmap and rallying cry for those who walk in Lewis’ footsteps --- who hope to hold this country to the standards it set, and to save it from itself.

Reviewed by John Maher on January 23, 2015

March: Book Two
written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell

  • Publication Date: January 20, 2015
  • Genres: Graphic Novel, History, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
  • ISBN-10: 1603094008
  • ISBN-13: 9781603094009