Congressman John Lewis is an American icon and legend. He witnessed first-hand history in the making and also made history himself as one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.
Now Congressman Lewis is sharing his story in a new graphic novel, March, coming this August from Top Shelf. The graphic novel will be co-written by Cong. Lewis’ staffer Andrew Aydin and art will be by Nate Powell.
Aydin works in Congressman Lewis’ Washington D.C. office handling Telecommunications and Technology policy as well as New Media. But this “new media” manager is going very “old media” in the form of a graphic novel. The art is by Nate Powell, a celebrated artist who is no stranger to politics. He appeared before the United Nations in 2011, discussing his contribution to the fundraising fiction anthology What You Wish For: A Book For Darfur alongside some of the world’s foremost writers of young adult fiction.
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights (including his key roles in the historic 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March), meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
Currently the Congressman from Georgia’s Fifth District, Lewis’ activism began early as he organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee while he was still a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary in 1959.
In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. He was beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.
From 1963 to 1966, Lewis was Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As Chairman, John Lewis became a nationally recognized leader. Lewis was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and at the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963.
In 1964, John Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The following year, Lewis helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. Hosea Williams, another notable Civil Rights leader, and John Lewis led over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. They intended to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” News broadcasts and photographs revealing the senseless cruelty of the segregated South helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he continued his commitment to the Civil Rights Movement as Associate Director of the Field Foundation and his participation in the Southern Regional Council’s voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the Director of the Voter Education Project (VEP). In 1977, John Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.
In 1981, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. He was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since then. In 2011 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The first volume, March (Book One), will appear in stores everywhere on August 13, 2013. Two weeks later, America will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom.
March is a historic first, both for the U.S. Congress and for comics publishing as a whole, marking the first time a sitting member of Congress has authored a graphic novel. Top Shelf Productions is the first and only graphic novel publisher to be certified by the House Committee on Standards.
March (Book One), a deluxe softcover graphic novel with french flaps and black & white interiors, 6.5″ x 9.5″, 128 pages, ISBN 978-1-60309-300