Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MARCH, Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

As you might imagine, MARCH: Book Two picks up where Book One left off, both on the day of Barack Obama's first presidential inauguration in 2009 and back in 1961.

Early in the book, John Lewis turns 21 - then the age of majority - and no longer requires parental permission to attend marches and protests and the like. He decides to head deeper in the south to Alabama, to ride buses as part of the Freedom Riders. On his application to join this particular movement, he wrote

I know that an education is important and I hope to get one, 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 might come to the deep south.

The levels of violence against the protestors ratchets up significantly - from beatings to bus fires and more - as the Freedom Riders try to exercise their legal rights under the Constitution (and as explained by the U.S. Supreme Court in Boynton v. Virginia. Sometimes the whites who attacked them were civilians, sometimes the police. Sometimes, even, the Ku Klux Klan.

Not gonna lie - this graphic novel is hard to read. Not because it's poorly written, but because it is extremely well-constructed. The text relays in matter-of-fact language what happened as the Freedom Riders faced jail and opposition, as the children of Birmingham were blasted with fire hoses and set upon by dogs, and as people were murdered, all because whites refused to treat African Americans with dignity - or even tolerance.

This volume of the three-part graphic novel ends just after the March on Washington, with the bombing of a church in Alabama.

The full text of the speech that John Lewis delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington can be found in the back of the book, and much of it is in the spreads about the march as well.

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