The Best Graphic Novel about Civil Rights I Have Ever Read -- March: Book One

March book one john lewis coverI just finished reading March: Book One. It was a good, solid graphic novel.

I'm not huge on reading about the Civil Rights movement right now --  mainly because I feel like so much of the literature about the movement is meant to make readers feel sick. Feeling physically ill from reading the horrific details is not my idea of a good reading experience. I do think, for the record, that we all need to feel sick and disgusted about the wrongs that occurred during the movement. We need to learn about the past and feel it. But, I don't support guilt-tripping and sensationalism, and it is a very thin line to walk. Probably some things that cross the line, in my opinion, don't cross the line in the opinion of others (and vice versa).

Anyway, all this is to say that I thought March: Book One had a really good feel about it. Unlike some civil rights books, March: Book One recognizes how far we've come. Granted, if a book is set in the past, it is not permitted to recognize what has happened after its narrative arc. But with March, the narrative skips back and forth between the present day and the past and manages this with notable clarity. The authors did a good job keeping thoughts connected and making transitions smooth.

March: Book One did not ignore the horrible treatment and danger that protesters faced, but it focused more on non-violent protest than any other book I've read about the civil rights movement. Protesters' plans for non-violence were detailed and laid out in both images and words. At one point John Lewis writes, "Our numbers were multiplying so fast that hundreds of volunteers had not yet been trained in the way of nonviolence, so I wrote up a basic list of "Do's and Don't's" to be distributed." I got chills reading that list.

The book is an autobiography of John Lewis, who was a prominent player in the civil rights movement. Congressman Lewis also spoke at the March on Washington, where Dr. King gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. He co-wrote March: Book One with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell has illustrated.

Powell does a great job, drawing in black and white, and the images are very effective. I quite liked this one, that portrays Congressman Lewis's emotional reaction to hearing the news that his parents would have to get on board for him to protest via lawsuit:
March book one john lewis excerpt
Upper right panel.
His face is still, but the abrupt changes in lighting, angle, and background all pack a punch.

march book one john lewis excerpt martin luther king jr.
I was pleased at how easily I recognized Martin Luther King Jr. 
So, I wasn't always planning to read this book.  But then I figured out I had moved to Atlanta (home of a lot of civil rights  history, and The King Center) and that it was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and I wanted more education. When other reviews were nothing but positive, I decided to risk it; I requested a review copy from the publishers, which they sent.

I'm glad I read March: Book One. I'm looking forward to the next volume* -- and I expect there will be chickens in it. There was too much background about John Lewis's childhood love of raising chickens for there not to be chickens in the following volumes. This is the best graphic novel about the civil rights movement that I've ever read (yes, I have read more than one). There was another good one a couple years back, but its tone was too "textbook" for my taste.

If you'd like to purchase March: Book One, here is my Amazon affiliate link March: Book One: 1 (March Trilogy). If you make a purchase after clicking through, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

March: Book One is solid for ages 12+, in my opinion, and I also recommend Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (my review of that is here) for that age group. A couple other recommendations are included in that review. Check it out, then tell me: what are your favorite books about civil rights?
*update 1/16/17: Volumes 2 and 3 of the March series are also really well done. Each one is successively longer, and volume 3 contains some swearing, unlike the other two volumes. Overall, a great series.

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