Rep. John Lewis, 76, teamed up with congressional staffer Andrew Aydin, 32, and artist Nate Powell, 38, to create “March,” a three-part graphic novel series about Lewis’ work in the civil rights movement. “March: Book Three” was released Tuesday (Aug. 2) in bookstores. The trio spoke with RNS about their work.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Q: Representative Lewis, in an earlier book of this series we read that you were asked by church leaders to tone down your speech at the 1963 March on Washington. How does “March: Book Three” deal with issues of faith?
Lewis: “Book Three” tells a story of how people kept going, how people never gave up or gave in, in spite of the bombing of a church, the beating on the bridge as we had left church to march all the way from Selma to Montgomery. We kept going, we never gave up, we never gave in, we never became bitter or hostile. We kept the faith. It was the music of the church that lifted us, that carried us. … We felt like God Almighty was on our side.
Q: The book series often talks about how prayers and hymns were used ahead of and during the civil rights marches. What difference did they make for you personally?
Lewis: The prayers, the songs, the hymns fortified me, made me stronger, gave me the power and the ability, the capacity to keep moving, to pick ’em up and put ’em down. If it hadn’t been for my belief in God Almighty, the civil rights movement and my own participation would have been like a bird without wings.
Aydin: “March” in general and “March: Book Three” specifically showed what an important role the church played in giving the movement a home from which to organize. Setting out from Brown Chapel (African Methodist Episcopal Church) in Selma or the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the fallout from entering the house of the Lord with violence, I think in many ways set up an important contrast between the dignity of the marchers and the organizers and the violence and chaos and disorder brought by those who were attacking them.
Q: How did a comic book published in 1957 by the nonviolence group Fellowship of Reconciliation about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. help lead to the creation of this series?
Aydin: Congressman Lewis first told me about that comic book when I was working on his campaign and he told me what an important role it played during the civil rights movement. I just started asking the congressman, “This first comic book was called ‘Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story’ and it told the story of the Montgomery bus boycott. So with that having been done in comic form, why couldn’t we do the rest of the movement in comic book form?” Martin Luther King had edited that comic book himself. And we used it as proof of the concept that “March” could work.
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SOURCE: RNS – Adelle M. Banks