Archive for March

Marching for Equality

March-Book2

March, Book Two

We’ve already reviewed Book One — check out the review over here.

I trust you know the general background of this one — it’s the autobiography of civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, told as a graphic novel. It’s cowritten by one of his staffers, a comics fan named Andrew Aydin, with art by Nate Powell.

This second chapter of the series gets us deeper into the weeds of the civil rights movement, just as it begins to get a lot more violent for the participants. They’re attacked at movie theaters, someone locks them in a diner, then fills it full of poison bug spray, their buses are run off the road and set on fire, they’re beaten by local thugs, the Klan, and the police, they’re attacked at churches, they’re thrown in jail.

But all of this is getting a lot of interest from the public all across the nation and the world. Some of the people who are also being attacked are members of the press, and members of President Kennedy’s staff. The violence of the segregated South was getting more and more attention and attracting more and more people who felt it was time for everyone to be equal. Thugs like Bull Connor were making things even worse for the status quo, upping the savagery of his attacks on innocent people until just about everyone in the country was disgusted.

The last quarter of the book focuses on the March on Washington — not just the videos you’ve seen on YouTube, but the behind-the-scenes negotiations that made it possible. One of the organizers was gay and was outed by Strom Thurmond in an attempt to discredit the march. Lewis’s speech had to go through extensive rewrites to keep it from sounding like an outright call for revolution. It’s a triumphant note — but the struggle was far from over. Less than a month after the march, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed, killing four little girls.

Verdict: Thumbs up. This book is going to make you unbelievably furious. It has good reason to do so, and we should all be furious about the massive injustices of this period in our national history. Yes, the March on Washington is genuinely inspiring, but most of the book is a recounting of injustice after injustice after injustice, and anyone who doesn’t get mad about that just isn’t paying attention. And people who want us to forget this should be ashamed of themselves.

There’s another reason I get angry when I read this book. You already know there are a lot of people who want to restrict voting rights and invent barriers to keep non-white people from voting. They always tell you they’re not racist, they’re just worried about illegal voting. That’s bull. These people are racist scum, and that’s all there is to it.

Y’all have heard me rant before about liberals who’ve decided the only way to solve the problem of racism in the South is to expel the South from the United States. The thing these supposedly good liberals don’t realize is that when they say things like that, they’re also spitting in the faces of the great civil rights leaders and openly siding with the Bull Connors.

Liberals who want to expel the South would be giving Southern racists free rein to turn the clock back as far as they wanted, essentially abandoning millions of blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, trans people, atheists, and even other liberals to people who would gleefully enslave, imprison, oppress, and execute them. Liberals who want to expel the South are signaling their willingness to do the KKK’s bidding, to give the wingnuts the victory they’ve always dreamed of. They’re siding with Jefferson Davis over Abraham Lincoln. They’re looking at the hard work and sacrifices of John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and thousands of others, and declaring they don’t care, it was all a failure, and let’s just let injustice rule again.

That’s a lot of the reason this book makes me angry. We’ve come so far — but still not far enough — and too many people are willing to abandon all that progress because they’re bored. And because they know they won’t suffer any of the consequences.

March, Book Two is a great book. You should definitely go pick it up.

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Marching for Justice

March-Book1

March: Book One

When I heard about this one, I knew I’d have to get it.

It’s basically the autobiography of civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, in graphic-novel format. The project came about because some of his staff were making jokes about staffer Andrew Aydin, who was a comics fan, but Lewis pointed out that a comic book about Martin Luther King, Jr. helped inspire him to get involved in the civil rights movement. Soon, Aydin was co-writing this book with Lewis, while Nate Powell put the art together.

Though the book starts out with what’s probably the most horrifying incident of Lewis’ life — when state troopers attacked peaceful marchers and fractured his skull on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama — we soon settle into a more straightforward biography. We visit Lewis as a child, obsessed with being a preacher and delivering passionate sermons to the family’s chickens as practice. We watch him growing up, going to college, becoming more socially aware, meeting Martin Luther King, becoming an activist…

Approximately the last half of the book focuses on the lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville, following them from the organizing and planning stages through the actual sit-ins and through the trials and aftermath. It’s simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s an amazing work of art, exciting, scary, beautiful, inspiring, and informative all at once. Part memoir, part history.

Like I said, a big chunk of the book is devoted to the sit-ins, and they’re probably the most interesting parts of the story, especially for those of us who were too young to have heard about these while they were happening.

I never knew that participants had to go through training sessions to make sure they were really willing to abide by the principles of non-violence — there was a lot of roleplaying involved, with everyone calling each other names, heaping abuse on each other, blowing cigarette smoke in their faces and dousing them with water — because that’s what they knew would happen at protests, and they had to make sure that everyone could handle the pressure without snapping and punching some Nashville cop in the neck.

And the specifics of the sit-ins were pretty interesting, too — all the detail and planning that went into them, what actually happened during the sit-ins, how people reacted, they’re all extremely informative. All of this got glazed over in school, so we never learned any of this. The history makes it worth reading.

Is there rude language? Yes, there is — racial epithets are used, just as they were used in real life. Is it still kid-friendly? I think it is. Again, this is historical info, and it’s important for kids and adults to know what happened. There’s nothing explicit — there’s no gore, no sex, no over-the-top swearing — but the difficulty of life in the South for African-Americans, and what it was like to attend protests and marches — none of this is sugar-coated, and none of it should be.

It’s a great story, it’s all true, and it’s the first graphic novel written by a member of Congress! I’d consider that a must-read. Go pick it up.

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