March Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Art: Nate Powell
John Lewis is one incredibly inspiring person, and he knows how to focus on what’s important. The final chapter in this book wraps up through the Voting Rights Act and wind down of the Civil Rights movement. It is also full of more deaths — or at least, it seems like more people who Lewis knew personally died — than the other volumes. Perhaps they were just more specific. Or perhaps we knew the incoming ones.
It was amazing to see how many time Lewis and others were put in prison. Lewis himself was arrested over 40 times. Which is just mind boggling to think about. I appreciate how he continues to focus on his prison time, not as a badge of honor, but as a horrible lesson of the time and the continued legacy of a racist justice system.
I loved seeing Lewis’ journey to Selma and how he stopped at many of the same places as he did on the Freedom Ride. It was heartening to see the changes, such as the removal of segregation in the bathrooms. However, the signs being painted over, instead of replaced, showed that it was still evolving and still tense.
Lewis’ insights into different key players in the movement served this story so well. His observations about Bob Ross and how he gained the Selma locals’ trust worked well to contrast those Civil Rights leaders who worked to impress Washington DC. Both Lewis and Aydin have a great balance of LBJ as well, and allow the President to be imposing, but not take over the narrative.
I always wonder how modern forensics would’ve changed the lynching investigations. I suppose a big feature would still be how corrupt and in the pocket of the KKK the police were. (And sadly, they still are.) That will slow down any investigation.
Lewis’ trip to Africa was interesting because the African leaders found America Civil Rights movements to be too conservative. Perhaps it was a majority – minority difference in demographics. It always amazes me just how conservative the US is to other countries in the world. I’ve only been to South Africa in the African continent, but I’ve been all over Europe. When I talk politics in the US, I’m considered an extreme leftist, but in Europe, I’m pretty middle-of-the-road left.
Since all movements are not monolithic, seeing how the different Civil Rights organization differed from each other and disagreed was a fascinating insight. I’ve been involved in organizations where this has happened. Of course, Lewis has the advantage of decades long past on his side, and even though I’m sure he’d rather they still be alive, many of the people are no longer with us, whether they were murdered or they died of old age or other causes.
One thing I did notice that Lewis didn’t discuss, except in volume one, was his family. His sister Rose is brought up in the parts about Obama’s inauguration. We know his family wasn’t keen on the risk he was bringing by becoming an activist, but I would’ve liked to see more about them, especially as he rose in prominence in the movement.
Powell’s pencils really shined through for Bloody Sunday. He shows Lewis’ determination to continue to be present in the fight — despite the very bad head wound and beating the racist cops gave him that day. The art conveyed the seriousness of the situation, but didn’t glorify the violence.
I appreciated Lewis consistently sticking to his own journey and not the experiences of others. He doesn’t show much of what happens while he’s in the hospital, except for his own frustrations on not being present. Considering I recently watched Selma, the film, I found this version of the successful Selma to Montgomery March to be less tense than the film version. Perhaps it was Lewis’ own confidence of spirit and of people, or the confidence of history that happened.
Ending it at Voting Rights Act fit both Lewis’ own involvement with SNCC, but also a high note. Which made a great tie-in with Obama’s inauguration. The call with Ted Kennedy served as a nice, somber reminder that not everyone who fought survived.
Overall, March is an important story about how important civil rights are, but also how much time and how much blood was shed to get them. We cannot be lax about them. We must continue to resist.
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