Reading with Be’chol Lashon: March Trilogy

Background

From the Washington Post:

In 1965, on what became known as “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Congressman John Lewis — who died on July 17, 2020 at 80 — led about 600 nonviolent marchers into the maw of state troopers’ nightsticks and tear gas. In 2015, to summon that historic memory, Lewis led a procession through the large bayside convention hall, holding a child’s hand in each of his. “I felt very, very moved just by being with the kids,” he said. “As you know, the civil rights movement was often led by the children and the young people.”

The reason Lewis marched at Comic-Con was the same one that spurred him to create his best-selling civil rights memoir — the graphic-novel trilogy “March” (Top Shelf Productions) — with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell: To engage young people, you must often dramatize history.

Lewis knew this firsthand. As a young man, he himself first learned about nonviolent protest through a comic book. Born in Alabama, Lewis had grown up reading newspaper comics. He was primed to absorb illustrated lessons when in 1957, the Fellowship of Reconciliation published “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,” a brightly colored 16-page comic book that centered on Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott.

After reading that story, Lewis eventually became drawn to the nonviolent protest movement as a chief organizer. By 1963, he was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington.

Nearly five decades later, he decided to create his own memoir in the form of a graphic novel after Aydin, then an aide in Lewis’s office, was teased by colleagues about going to Comic-Con. Lewis told his staff about his own profound history with comics. The congressman and the aide were inspired to collaborate.

The result is a masterpiece of storytelling. “March” traces Lewis’s path from a childhood in the segregated South, sermonizing to chickens — who listened to him better than some members of Congress, as he later liked to joke — to his first meeting, at the age of 18, with King, to the perilous Freedom Rides, his leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and his ascension as one of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders who organized the 1963 March on Washington.

March Teacher’s Guide

Prepared by Ronell Whitaker and Eric Kallenborn

“When John Lewis decided to tell his story, and to tell it in a way that would be accessible to young and old audiences, he took the first step towards making sure he left an indelible mark on the world. He told his story and changed the world. The biggest takeaway my students get from March is the power of telling your story, and more importantly, it’s using that power to affect change.”

– Ronell Whitaker

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