March: Book One

March: Book One
Written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, Illustrated by Nate Powell

Publisher’s Summary:
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

Primary Source Pairing:
Book one of a three part series on the amazing life of Civil Rights activist John Lewis, March: Book One presents Lewis’ childhood and the beginning of his years of activism. Use the book itself to present the importance and the power of visual literacy. Begin a discussion with students on the format of this memoir: How does the graphic novel format of the text influence the story of John Lewis’ life? How does the format enhance the information in this memoir? Does the graphic novel format increase the reader’s comprehension of information in the book? How? Why?

For this primary source pairing, invite students to analyze two images. The first image is of a lunch counter with the stools removed. The second image is of men at a lunch counter with a sign behind them stating “Fountain Closed in Interest of Public Safety.” Invite students to study these images. Do not provide them the details of the images until after the analysis.  Let their questions guide the discussion of the images and lend themselves to a greater discussion about the book.

Image description for Lunch Counter photograph from www.crmvet.org:
Kress 5&10 store removes stools to prevent students from integrating the lunch counter with a sit-in, 1960. Orangeburg, SC.

www.crmvet.orgImage description for “Fountain Closed in Interest of Public Safety” photograph from www.crmvet.org:
Rather than serve people of color, this Walgreen’s lunch-counter closes “in the interest of public safety.” Other cafes and lunch-counters call the cops to arrest Blacks for the crime of ordering a cup of coffee in defiance of the segregation laws.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What’s happening in the image
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What, if any, words do you see?
  • What other details can you see?
  • How does this photograph connect to what you read in March: Book One?

Credits:
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Fountain Closed Photograph: Jimmy Ellis on www.crmvet.ort
Lunch counter photograph: Cecil J. Williams on www.crmvet.org

Additional Resources:
Civil Rights Movement Veterans website
Jim Crow and Segregation Primary Source Set from The Library of Congress
The NAACP: A Century in the Fight for Freedom Primary Source Set from The Library of Congress
The Sit-Ins — Off Campus and Into Movement website

Primary Source Pairings for the March Series:
March: Book Two
March: Book Three