Book Review on March – Old First E-pistle, 09.09.16

Book Review on March – Old First E-pistle, 09.09.16

This week’s E-pistle is written by congregation member Margaret Rhody, one of the Sacred Conversations on Race ministry team members.


Book Review – MARCH, Books 1-3. Written by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin. Art by Nate Powell.  Top Shelf Productions, 2013-2016.

“Everything was fifty years ago.”  This remark by a friend at one of the many 50-year anniversaries of events in the Civil Rights Movement shows the need for John Lewis’s autobiography, dedicated “To the past and future children of the movement.”

We are all children of the movement, past or present. Some lived these events in person; others read about it in the newspaper or watched it happen on live television. Children born after 1970 study it in history class. Lewis intends to bring the story to life for young people with no personal memories of the events he describes, but MARCH does more. It connects or reconnects us all to the great and true story of the Civil Rights Movement.

To categorize this graphic book as Young Adult is to miss its value to readers of all ages.  Powell’s stunning black-and-white drawings, in the style of a 1950s comic book, tell the story of the Civil Rights Movement with an immediacy and accessibility that printed text does not.

The book begins on January 20, 2009, when Lewis’s alarm clock wakes him, and ends when he returns home after all the ceremonies and celebrations of Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day.

The past and the present come together as the Inauguration narrative parallels the story of the Civil Rights Movement, from Lewis’s childhood in Alabama to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.  In the lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville, the Freedom Riders, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, the Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act, the drive to register voters in Alabama, and Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, we see violent law enforcement and non-violent courage.  We catch our breath when the Freedom Riders, after training for what they are about to do, write their wills.

We learn the stories of the Big Six civil rights leaders, and of many less well-known people, both black and white, who put their lives on the line to help move this battle forward.  We see the movement evolve, with victories and defeats, successes and failures.  Some want to move faster; others believe in taking more time at each step of the way.  As I read this book, I realized that this tension, within the movement from the very beginning, is to be valued, not eliminated, as we fight new battles and re-fight for the rights that we thought were won in 1965.

MARCH is a good book, an important book, for “young adults” of all ages.  Consider making it a family reading project or a book group selection.