MARCH Book Two coverBook Two of John Lewis’ autobiographical adventures in the civil rights movement continues his story. PreviewsWorld interviewed Lewis, his co-author Andrew Aydin and the artist, Nate Powell.

“Nate and I joke about this sometimes,” said Aydin, “but it’s really pretty accurate: If Book One is Star Wars, then Book Two is our Empire Strikes Back. The stakes are higher, the heroes are stronger, more prepared, and the danger is more lethal. Book One focused on the congressman’s childhood and coming of age, studying and rehearsing in nonviolence workshops with the Nashville Student Movement, launching a sit-in campaign that successfully forced the city to integrate lunch counters, and eventually the formation of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). Now with Book Two, we show how these young people became a truly national force, and one of the key elements of the broader Civil Rights Movement.”

Congressman Lewis chimed in: “So we talk about the Freedom Rides: a group of us, about a dozen people, black and white, young and old, set out on a Greyhound bus and a Trailways bus to ride through the heart of the deep South, to test the Supreme Court decision prohibiting segregation on buses. We were attacked several times, beaten, left lying in a pool of blood. One of the buses was set on fire. We knew that we might die. But we continued the Freedom Ride. More and more riders joined the movement. It became front-page news. Attorney General Robert Kennedy got involved, the governor of Alabama got involved, we were arrested several times, we spent weeks in Parchman State Penitentiary … but we dramatized the issue to the nation, and around the world, to see the reality of segregation in America.”

March Book Two drawingLewis continued: “Book Two also shows the March on Washington on August the 28th, 1963. I was 23 years old — I had just been elected chairman of SNCC a few months earlier, and after about a week I was invited to the White House along with representatives of several other organizations to discuss plans for the march. And it worked so beautifully. It was an unbelievable day. So many people worked so hard to organize a peaceful, orderly, nonviolent march. It really represented the best of America. Hundreds of thousands of people coming together to say ‘we want our freedom and we want it now.’ I spoke number six that day. Dr. King spoke number ten, when he said ‘I have a dream.’ And out of everyone who spoke that day, I’m the only one still around. So we tell the story.”

Said Nate Powell: “I could tell how much our collaborative method had found its stride within just a few pages of breaking down the script for Book Two. After getting to know each other on Book One, we were able to come out of the gate swinging with the second, and that gave some much-needed room to allow for all the other considerations that go into the visual process for this story. I certainly had a better sense for the kinds of daily research and reference I’d have to do, the degree of double-checking along the way, and a sense of when some issues would give us problems down the road. Overall it’s been a much more natural and efficient process.”

“To paraphrase something Dr. King once said,” Lewis finished, “there is no sound more powerful than the marching feet of a determined people. This book March is not just my story, it's the story of so many of us who stood up and spoke out, who studied the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence, who organized and made ourselves impossible to ignore. It is my hope that a new generation can read it and be inspired to march again.”


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