By the fall of 1963, the Civil Rights Movement has penetrated deep into the American consciousness, and as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis is guiding the tip of the spear. Through relentless direct action, SNCC continues to force the nation to confront its own blatant injustice, but for every step forward, the danger grows more intense: Jim Crow strikes back through legal tricks, intimidation, violence, and death. The only hope for lasting change is to give voice to the millions of Americans silenced by voter suppression: “One Man, One Vote.”
To carry out their nonviolent revolution, Lewis and an army of young activists launch a series of innovative campaigns, including the Freedom Vote, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and an all-out battle for the soul of the Democratic Party waged live on national television.
March: Book Three is the finale of writers Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, and artist Nate Powell‘s trilogy of graphic novels chronicling the early years of Congressman Lewis’ life and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
As I read the graphic novel from cover to cover, I found myself filled with emotions, as Lewis’ life was there in print for those to see and read. The story is a complicated one, but it’s presented in a way that feels honest and open, both good and bad. This is an inside look at one of the most important, and turbulent times in American history from not just someone that was there, but a leader of the movement. And that’s a fascinating part of this third book, is its focus on Lewis’ role as a leader.
At 25 years old, John Lewis and his friends were looked at as radicals trying to grasp power from the establishment. The graphic novel chronicles Lewis’ meeting with Malcolm X who advised him and the movement to focus on class, not race. And all of that spoke to me like nothing I’ve read before, because over 50 years later, that exact same conversation is being had. The young radicals within the Democratic party (and politics in general) are being dismissed. The idea of focusing on class instead of race is still debated. For all the victories, what was accomplished, so little has changed. From issues of inequality to Black Lives Matter, the themes and struggle of this third graphic novel echo and repeat to today. While the graphic novel book ends itself with the election of President Obama, the graphic novel forces the reader (whether on purpose or not) to think about what that means in today’s society. Where we are from where we’ve been.
This third chapter to makes the whole stronger and for as much as I thought the second graphic novel was an emotional whirlwind, this third one left me fighting back tears at times. The whole is easily one of the greatest graphic presentations of all time, and absolutely some of the best literature to have been produced in recent years. It may seem like exaggeration but this graphic novel again brings real history “to life” in a way that is educational and entertaining. It accomplishes amazing things and will easily find its way on to book shelves as well as the classroom.
This third volume somehow leapfrogs the other two. Whether it’s due to learning or the material within, something about it created an emotional reaction I haven’t felt by any media in quite some time. And most importantly it got me to think about where we as a people and nation have been, where we are, and where we’re going.
This is easily the best graphic novel of the year so far.
Story: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin Art: Nate Powell
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy