When I was in the sixth grade in 2001, I was witness to one of the single greatest tragedies in American history. When those towers fell, my young mind was filled with fear and paranoia. Who could do this? Was I next? My world changed that day, despite being thousands of miles away. The innocence of my childhood had burst.
Later that year, I did a school project on the Selma to Montgomery March and I was shocked about the treatment of blacks by their fellow Americans in the south for simply wanting to be treated equally. I watched the movie and cried. Hell, I’m tearing up right now as I type. I realized that the feelings I had with respect to terrorists overseas were a joke compared to the constant nightmare suffered by blacks impacted by the American Civil Rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s. It is for this reason I am writing this review of the graphic novelization of John Lewis’ account of his role and experiences in the Freedom Marches of 1965 and the events leading up to that point.
This third and final installment of “March” covers the events from the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Montgomery in 1963 up to the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act as a personal narrative of John Lewis. John was one of the “Big 6” leaders of the Civil Rights movement who was personally involved with the organization of many southern non-violent protests and championing the rights of the African-American community. Since this is an autobiography of sorts, there are chunks of time that are well-known to history books, like Bloody Sunday, that are not described in detail since he was hospitalized at the time. However, the insight and emotional roots of his story are so authentic and genuine that I couldn’t help but get caught up in it.
He and fellow political authority Andrew Aydin came together after Obama’s inauguration and decided to turn this into a comic book, which I believe was much-needed in today’s political climate. They enlisted the services of best-selling graphic novelist Nate Powell to illustrate his account and let me tell you, it is powerful stuff. Entirely in black and white, and rightfully so, he weaves a tapestry of anguish, determination, and triumph that speaks volumes despite having no text on many pages. This doesn’t utilize new age computer techniques and sticks to classic ink and paper, which I loved because it adds authenticity to the story. Also, the alternating background colors between black and white creates dimension and variation to a potentially repetitive art scheme.
I felt it was extremely important that I write a full review of this graphic novel for two reasons. The first is that it is an amazing one. John Lewis continues to be a voice for the American people and has now spoken to an untapped community, the comic community. A Crusader if there ever was one. The second is the present day need for a reminder of our shameful past, to be used as a reminder not to repeat itself. I try to stay neutral in current events in my reviews, but the truth is that the accountability of the American people with respect to terrorism and hate crimes is not enough. Cops shooting black citizens rampantly, cops gunned down by snipers, and extremists in LGBT night clubs with assault rifles are NOT OKAY. Something drastic needs to change and we need people like those exemplified in these pages to take a stand, or else we are doomed to endure these atrocities and much worse. History buffs and civil rights advocates will love this, because I sure did. It’s comics like these that make me proud to be an American and a comic enthusiast. Okay, I need to read the first two volumes now.
Let Freedom Ring, 5 out of 5 Stars
Congressman John Lewis & Andrew Aydin (w) • Nate Powell (a & c)
Publisher: Top Shelf / IDW