The second act of Georgia Democrat John Lewis’ animated history lesson, “March: Book Two,” portrays some of the grittiest times this nation has ever faced.
Lewis — along with co-author and legislative aide Andrew Aydin, and graphic artist Nate Powell — hop right back into the seemingly hopeless situation of attempting to redirect society one incredibly brave step at a time. Lewis’ defiance lands him in jail on his 21st birthday — he’d already been locked up before, and it only got easier, he explained in 2013 to a Comic-Con crowd — for organizing a protest at a racially segregated movie theater in Nashville, Tenn.
Shortly thereafter, in April 1961, Lewis would journey to Washington, D.C., to join the fellow revolutionaries who would become the founding Freedom Riders.
It was during that fateful trip to the District that Lewis first strode into a hospitality venture and actually dined there.
“The only other times I had stepped foot inside one had been part of a protest,” he relayed of his inaugural trip to a Chinese restaurant.
Lewis’ trek through the heart of the Dixie exposed him to some of the most prominent figures of the Civil Rights Era, including Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., pre-party-hopping integration opponent Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Black Power activist Stokely Carmichael, Alabama Gov. and segregationist George Wallace, and Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X.
Perhaps the most horrific thing about thumbing through this shocking snapshot of history is realizing how many unsung men, women and children were routinely humiliated, brutalized and sometimes killed for daring to challenge the status quo.
The climax of this installment is the 1963 March on Washington, a historic gathering plagued up until the last minute by flaring tempers and abutting ideologies. The book includes the original draft of Lewis’ speech; Lewis acknowledges toning things down a bit in order to keep the peace with the other leaders packed onto the National Mall that morning.
Tensions will explode once again in Book Three as everyone is forced to deal with the fatal firebombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., in September 1963.
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