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Representative John Lewis Continues His Long March Toward Justice

Updated on July 10, 2016

March Book Two

March brings the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world.
March brings the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world. | Source

Congressman John Lewis

In June of 2016, Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) made national headlines by organizing a very high profile sit-in on the floor of Congress in support of that august body to move forward on the subject of gun control. As it turns out, this was not the first time that Congressman Lewis had been involved in either a sit-in or in an act of civil disobedience. No, the Congressman’s involvement as a radical agent of social change goes back to a generation to his work with Dr. Martin Luther King, the Freedom Riders, and work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the era of Civil Rights.

Congressman Lewis's Long March to Freedom

Back in 2014 Congressman Lewis, along with a Congressional aide of his named Andrew Aydin wrote a graphic novel about the Congressman’s early life. That book was illustrated by best-selling New York Times artist Nate Powell, and was published by Top Shelf Productions. The team followed this up in 2015 with a second volume of the Congressman’s story that takes him from a segregated school room in Alabama to the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington (a third volume is scheduled to drop on August 2, 2016). As in the first book, the story intercuts between the Congressman attending President Obama’s inauguration, and to Lewis’ life as a young man as he was involved in the fight for equal rights for Blacks and other minorities.

March: Book Two Paperback

March: Book Two
March: Book Two

"With March, Congressman John Lewis takes us behind the scenes of some of the most pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. In graphic novel form, his first-hand account makes these historic events both accessible and relevant to an entire new generation of Americans." — LeVar Burton

 

Freedom Riders

The graphic novel tracks Lewis and his fellow Freedom Riders as they were manhandled, beaten, and arrested in their quest for equality. We see how their busses were attacked and set ablaze as they were riding to their destinations in order to campaign for that equality. The book details the struggles that Lewis and his fellow marchers made as they fought for something as simple as equality; for the right to not to be denied service at a lunch counter, for the right to drink out of whatever water fountain they want, for the right to walk down the street, to drive a car without being pulled over simply for being Black, to go into any store, for the right not to be afraid that someone was going to randomly beat the living daylights out of them, to not have someone burn a cross on their lawn, to shot them dead, hang them, or blow up their churches and kill their children. The short version of all this is that they simply wanted the right to vote.

March Comic Book by: Congressman John Lewis

To Be An American

They wanted the right to be full-fledged Americans.

Congressman John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis holds a copy of March, Book 2, the second volume of his graphic memoir of his years as a civil rights activist.
Congressman John Lewis holds a copy of March, Book 2, the second volume of his graphic memoir of his years as a civil rights activist. | Source

March: Book Two

Ticking in around 190 pages the brilliantly illustrated book also includes a pair of text pieces about the book’s authors, as well as the original draft of the speech that Lewis, as chairperson of the SNCC delivered during the Washington March in ‘63. The book details Lewis’ increasing involvement in the growing civil rights movement of the era. It follows Lewis and his compatriots as they prep for the various freedom bus rides that they took into the deep south as they attempted to effect integration and change. The book details how the various freedom teams prepared for their interactions with the people who were going to violently object to Blacks not “staying where they belong” and “invading their space.”

Nate Powell's art from Book Two of March

A panel from March Book 2
A panel from March Book 2 | Source

The Long Hard Struggle

The book depicts just a very small part of the long hard, and often brutal and degrading struggle that African Americans had to go through during the early ‘60s just to work towards attempting equality. There are those who will tell African Americans to “get over” having been slaves, and that White America doesn’t really “owe” them anything. These people will go so far as to point out that the Irish were also enslaved. To these people we want to say that we would point out that when was the last time you know someone who got pulled over for looking Irish, or Polish, or Italian.

John Lewis & Dr. Martin Luther King

John Lewis standing left of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, March 1, 1965, during the march from Selma to Montgomery to protest lack of voting rights for African Americans
John Lewis standing left of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, March 1, 1965, during the march from Selma to Montgomery to protest lack of voting rights for African Americans | Source

A Historical View

Speaking from our position of historical review today, it is absolutely horrendous that after all they have been put through that African Americans are still treated with a massive amount of disrespect. That when Blacks are protesting discrimination (as in ‎Ferguson, Missouri) they are called “Thugs” but when Whites become animated and take to the streets (like when their favorite sports team wins a division title) they are called “revelers.” When Black men are killed while in the custody of police for selling loosies, or CDs but a White man can shoot up a Black church, or a Planned Parenthood office, or jump the fence to the White House and make it all the way inside — past Secret Service Agents while carrying a knife — and get taken alive, it is hard not to see that there is an actual problem with being Black in this country.

Art from March Book Two

The struggle for civil ritghts
The struggle for civil ritghts | Source

A Unjust System

It is now some 50+ years since the Freedom Riders and, sadly, African Americans are still being shot, and still being beaten, and still being denied service based on the color of their skin. They are being denied housing, and jobs, and being marginalized by society. There is, whether people choose to accept it or not, there is systemic prejudice, violence, and racism that is directed against Blacks in this country. According to recent data, African Americans are twice as likely to be arrested as Whites and they are about three times as likely to experience force during encounters with police. While we are not Black, we do understand and appreciate that being Black in this country can’t possibly be easy. As for ourselves, we are personally thankful that there have been (and still are) people like Congressman John Lewis who are fighting for our right to be equal and safe as Americans in this country.

March: Book One Paperback

March: Book One
March: Book One

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, 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.

 

Privilege

“When you're accustom to privilege equality seems like oppression.”

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