March: Book Three is a slower read then John Lewis and Andrew Aydin’s other two graphic novels because the history told is extremely detailed. While it is all important, some things could have been edited down a smidgen. This history is not easy to deal with to begin with, therefore, the younger (even some teen readers) might get lost in what should have been probably a novel and not a graphic novel.
But it is a great look at the other side of the text books as well. Such as some less than flattering things were said about Dr. King and President Johnson. We are seeing the movement not from the viewpoint of a separated person who only is writing a text book, but we are seeing what happened from the inside. We are hearing the words of a man who was there, in the middle of it. We see the politics and the real faces of people involved. We hear their stories, sometimes in graphic details (but never “over the edge into vulgarity” just straight facts). And we see their stories unfold (here the scenes get a little more graphic, but again, just the fact that people were beaten, abused and spat upon). And while we are still seeing the actions that would cause the march from Selma to Montgomery, AL, this time the focus is less on the desegregation of business, but on the right to vote. Yet, of course, it all is about equality of everyone.
My strongest observation is not going to be a popular one for some. I think, in many ways, Lewis did more for the civil rights movement than Dr. King or even Malcolm X. Lewis was behind the scenes a lot of the time. He was also literally in the middle of a march, while King made sure he was up front and center. Lewis was getting his hands dirty by being arrested (literally days in a row), beaten (so badly once that I am amazed, he lived), speaking to politicians and agencies, flying between the south and Washington, DC and even Africa. And while many of Lewis’s speeches were strong and filled with important sentiments, he might not have been the speaker Dr. King or Malcolm X were. Also, he was sometimes sixth on the docket. Do we remember the sixth speaker at a rally? Or do we remember the first and last? I feel Lewis has empathy for everyone. He understands the “old guard” of civil rights leaders and the middle guard such as he was (the youth that grew up in the middle of things), he understood the way of Malcolm X even. He knew everyone was trying their best to make a bad situation better. He was willing to work with the system and fight it at the same time. And while he admits he was naive at times, I think he saw the writing on the wall and saw the more radical 1960s and 1970s coming.
This leads to my second thought. Lewis focuses on the main story, but every so often the progression from non-violence of the 1950s and early 1960s to the more radical mid-1960s and 1970s starts to play out. I think there were three main sets of people who were the civil rights movement: “The “Grandparents” the generation of Lewis’s parents. A few men who were able to become politicians, leaders in the system, and minsters speaking out, but who also wanted to “not rock the boat”. Then the “Old Youth” the ones of Lewis’s generation. They were the youth that wanted to rock the boat, but as they were growing up, they too were hoping to work within the system, but fight it if needed. They were willing to wait an to take three tries to start the march from Selma to Montgomery. And then there were “The Children of The Old Youth” who were the children of the Old Youth and the kids of earlier (not old enough to do the sit-ins, protests) seeing the slowness, the betrayals, and frustrations of the early demonstrators. They were tired of waiting. With the modern technology, the war in Vietnam, the more worldliness of them made this generation wanting it all now. No waiting. And they were willing to take it by whatever means necessary.
The March trilogy is a long (around 570 pages) and rewarding, read at how 2009 was able to happen and we had our first biracial president. It is not an easy series, due to content, language and even the artwork (Nate Powell you are a very talented artist, but have you heard of white space?) itself but well worth the time.