March, by John Robert Lewis

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Five stars for the series, read in February 2015.

I struggle sometimes with black and white graphic novel illustrations, but in book one they are clear and easy to read. I wish I could read all three at once instead of having to do one at a time, but book two just came out last month and I can’t find anything yet about when to expect book three. This is a great, detailed account of a brilliant period in our recent history.

With book two I had to take back what I said about the illustrations being easy to follow. There is so much going on in some of the scenes, with multiple threads of narration and dialogue progressing simultaneously, that it becomes chaotic and confusing and a little frantic. But then, that seems fairly appropriate for what’s happening in them.

I’m beginning to think these books may be one of the most important resources I’ve seen for learning about the civil rights movement. The sad fact is that history is very difficult to connect with if you haven’t had some kind of personal experience, and you need to be able to connect with it if it’s ever going to be more than names and dates on a page. I watched Dr. King’s speech more than once in school, but when you hear the same words over and over again, see the same images, and never get beyond that, it all kind of loses meaning. You see him as a historical figure, not a real person, and you don’t get any sense of the struggle and pain and fear and hope—you just hear some nice words and maybe you even think, “Well, I’m glad that all worked out.”

In these books, you get to follow along and actually see it as if you were there. And because John Lewis was one of the prominent figures of the time, you see a lot of the big moments from the inside. He makes a point, I think, of mentioning other important figures—even to the extent that those mentions seem a little random—just because we need to know who they are. And, although he skips the fact that female leaders of the movement were excluded from the March on Washington, he does mention them frequently throughout the story. Which I realize sounds like undeserved feminist cookies, because they were there, so why wouldn’t he mention them? But even so, I was glad every time I saw one of their names.

Of course we can’t expect that these books cover every detail of an entire national movement, and I’m sure that there are other important men missing as well as women. But based on my admittedly non-expert knowledge thus far, I think Congressman Lewis has given us a lot to go on. I can’t wait for the third book to come out.

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