The Best Moments from John Lewis’s Graphic Novel of the Civil Rights Movement, Pt. 3

Detail of Edmund Pettis Bridge from March trilogy slipcase cover.

This is the last of a three-part post on John Lewis’s graphic novel series, March, which is made up of three books—March: Book One (2013), March: Book Two (2015), and March: Book Three (2016). As I noted in my previous two posts, despite its being in graphic novel form the series is easily one of the most engaging and memorable things I’ve ever read on the Civil Rights Movement and if I ever get to teach 20th century U.S. history, I’m definitely going to use it, even with older students.

Once again, I’ve selected some of my favorite moments from the series—this time from the third volume—to share with you below. Due to the poor picture quality, you might have to zoom in on the stills in order to see them clearly, but hopefully you’ll find them interesting enough regardless.

Finally, here are 14 memorable moments from March: Book Three:

1.) That time four little girls chit-chatting in a church bathroom on a Sunday morning were blown away in Birmingham…

“I’m nervous too — today’s my first day as an usher.”
“DENISE!?!”
“She’s dead, baby.”

2.) That time the Sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama (home to Selma) deputized a bunch of random white guys and armed them with electric cattle prods to deal with protesters before they’d even started…

“From poor laborers to wealthy landowners, Sheriff Clark and his “posse” often carried cattle prods — and they did not use them on cows.”

3.) That time three Mississippi Freedom Summer volunteers went missing on the way to help register voters and everybody somehow knew what had happened to them…

“In a single night, the Klan burned crosses in 64 of the state’s 82 counties as a warning.”
“We have a problem — three of our volunteers haven’t checked in.”
“Tired and distraught, Bob Moses spoke to the next wave of volunteers.”
“When I heard the news at the beginning, I knew they were dead. […] There may be more deaths.”

4.) That time John Lewis let off some steam dancing the night away with Shirley MacLaine…

“A movement is fueled by passion, and we had plenty.”

5.) That time Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony on live TV before the Credentials Committee of the DNC shook both the nation and President Johnson, who called an impromptu news conference to try to take attention away from her speech…

“He said, ‘If you don’t go down and withdraw your registration [to vote], you will have to leave.’ […] I had to leave that same night.”
“That night, sixteen bullets were fired [at me].”
“And he said, ‘We are going to make you wish you was dead.'”

6.) That time John Lewis was on vacation touring several countries in Africa and bizarrely ran into Malcolm X in Nairobi, Kenya…

“On our way from Ethiopia to Zambia, our plane had mechanical trouble and we were forced to land in Kenya.”
“The struggle in Africa is inseparable from our struggle in America.”
“Malcolm talked about the need to shift our focus from race to class…”

7.) That time after a long day of protests in Selma John Lewis almost broke his vow of nonviolence defending MLK from an attacker at a hotel…

“It tends to be forgotten … just how many days of uneventful protest took place outside the courtrooms and jails.”
“I don’t know what came over me. … I found out that day, even I have limits.”

8.) That time black schoolteachers marched for the vote in Selma carrying toothbrushes to show they weren’t afraid of going to jail…

“How can we teach American Civics when we can’t vote?!”
“You have ten seconds to get off these steps…”

9.) That time activist Jimmie Lee Jackson and Malcolm X were both gunned down within a few days of each other…

“This was a dangerous march. Under cover of darkness, too many things could happen.”
“Another half an hour passed before police took him to the county infirmary.”
“We have received reports that Malcolm X has been assassinated…”
“…secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man, but a seed.”

10.) That time John Lewis led the “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge outside of Selma and almost got beaten to death…

“You’ve gotta connect with your attacker’s humanity!”
“We prayed. And then we began to march.”
“…”
“Can you swim?”
“Troopers — ADVANCE!!”
“I thought I saw death.”
“Get up. Keep moving.”
“We have to get you to a hospital.”
“Something about that day touched a nerve deeper than anything that had come before.”
“I even started imagining someone slipping into my room to finish me off.”

11.) That time President Johnson gave a landmark speech in defense of the protesters announcing his support for what would become the Voting Rights Act of 1965…

“At times, history and fate meet at a single time, in a single place, to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom.”
“Their cause must be our cause too.”

12.) That time protesters were finally able to march unimpeded from Selma to Montgomery and ended up having a big concert and a bunch of speeches after marching for three days…

“It felt like EVERYONE was there.”
“We covered seven miles the first day.”
“Harry Belafonte organized a concert with … Nina Simone, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., Billy Eckstine, Leonard Bernstein, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.”
“This is a revolution — a revolution that won’t fire a shot!”
“You have given me back that faith today.”
“I wish I could say the violence, the threats, the murders all stopped after [that day] … The pursuers pulled up alongside Liuzzo’s driver-side window and fired a single shot into her head, killing her.”

13.) That time Lewis went to the White House and met President Johnson who offered some colorful commentary right before he signed the Voting Rights Act…

“You gotta get ’em by the balls and you gotta SQUEEZE…”
“It was the last day of the movement as I knew it.”

14.) That time John Lewis and Barack Obama hugged and thanked each other at Obama’s inauguration as President in 2008…

“Because of you, John.”

I was there that day at the inauguration, along with about a million other folks. It was cold as hell but we felt like it was too important a moment to miss. It was special. Of course, Trump was a massive regression, but that’s always how progress has been in the U.S. — two steps forward, one step back. I look forward to seeing what happens next. Hope y’all enjoyed the stills from the March series — it’s certainly worth reading!

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