Civil Rights Leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis Coauthors Graphic Novel Memoir

John Lewis being arrested during the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March ("Bloody Sunday")

Lewis’ arrest during the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March (aka Bloody Sunday)

This August, Civil Rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis will be publishing a graphic novel memoir through Top Shelf.

March: Book One, coauthored by Andrew Aydin (Lewis’ Telecommunications and Technology aide) with art by Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole), marks the first time a graphic novel has been written by a sitting Member of Congress.

Lewis’ contributions to the Civil Rights Movement have been monumental. In fact, his acts of civil disobedience were so prolific that they would result in him being jailed 40 times over the course of the movement.

March (Book One) by Andrew Aydin and Congressman John Lewis and Nate PowellAs a young man of 20, Lewis helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in April 1960. As Chairman of the SNCC, he organized and participated in numerous Nashville sit-ins in the early ’60s.

He was also one of the Freedom Riders. Despite being ruled unconstitutional by U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 1952 and 1954, segregated buses and trains still persisted in the Deep South. In 1961, the nonviolent Freedom Riders were formed to combat this blatantly racist and unlawful discrimination. After writing wills and saying goodbye to their loved ones, these 21 individuals (black and white, male and female, and all younger than 23 years old) attempted to ride in an integrated fashion from Washington, D.C., to Jackson, Mississippi.

The Freedom Riders encountered numerous instances of violent resistance including arrests in several cities, a blood thirsty mob and firebombing in Anniston, Alabama, and beatings so brutal in Montgomery, Alabama that several riders were left with permanent injuries. These would not be the only instances in which the young activists would be met with violence.

Freedom Riders John Lewis and James Zwerg after they were attacked by segregationists in Montgomery, Alabama, May 20, 1961

Lewis and fellow Freedom Rider James Zwerg after the brutal attack in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 20, 1961

On March 7, 1965, Lewis suffered a fractured skull and was arrested during the first Selma-Montgomery March. This march, which was jointly led by Lewis and Hosea Williams, is also known as “Bloody Sunday” due to the particularly violent beating the marchers received at the hands of Alabama State Troopers and Dallas County Sheriff’s deputies. This attack against the roughly 600 unarmed marchers shocked the nation and ultimately led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As a member of the “Big Six” (along with Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, and Whitney Young), Lewis was also one of the organizers of the March on Washington in August 1963. At the age of 23, Lewis was also the youngest keynote speaker at the historic march.

John Lewis (age 23) was the youngest keynote speaker at the 1963 March on Washington

Lewis addressing the audience as the youngest keynote speaker at the at the 1963 March on Washington.

March: Book One (of Three) will be published as a 6.5″ x 9.5″ 128-page softcover with french flaps. The graphic novel will ship August 2013 and is available now for pre-order for $14.95. Top Shelf will also offer digital copies for $9.99.

[Story via Comic Alliance]

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