The Common Good

Sojo Stories: Marching Alongside a Civil Rights Hero

Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners
Nate Powell (l), Congressman John Lewis, and Andrew Aydin on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

It may have taken a little bit of prodding — a little ‘you-want-me-to-do-what?’ and a lot of faith — but in the end, Congressman John Lewis agreed to go along with staffer Andrew Aydin’s out-of-the-box idea. The result: March (Book 1) — the first of a three-part graphic novel autobiography chronicling Lewis’ life and the Civil Rights Movement.

“The story of the movement that we tell is very much John Lewis’ story in this first book,” Aydin said. “It is a story of him growing up poor, on a farm, and it builds to a climax of the national sit-in movement.”

Lewis certainly has a lot to tell. He and other activists famously were beaten by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in 1965 during an attempted march for voting rights — an event that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” He served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the height of the movement, spoke at the historic March on Washington alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was instrumental in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Aydin, who co-wrote the book with Congressman Lewis, and illustrator Nate Powell sat down with Sojourners to explain how the series came about and why it is such an important story these 50 years later.

The book has already received advance praise from President Bill Clinton, who noted the historical significance of the story:

I’m so pleased that [Lewis] is sharing his memories of the Civil Rights Movement with America’s young leaders. In March, he brings a whole new generation with him across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, from a past of clenched fists into a future of outstretched hands.

The book releases on Aug. 13, about two weeks before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Aydin and Powell recently accompanied Lewis on the Faith and Politics Institute’s Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama, where the pair was able to immerse in the movement’s scene. There, they heard first-hand accounts from civil rights luminaries, witnessed the Chief of the Montgomery Police Department apologize to Lewis on behalf of the department, marched with Lewis and Vice President Joe Biden across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and toured historic sites like King’s parsonage.

“I guess one of the most powerful experiences I was having in relation to his story and to the script was just the reality check — was that 10 or 15 years separating our lifetimes is nothing,” Powell said.

Now a whole new generation — and a new demographic of graphic novel enthusiasts — has access to the Civil Rights story.

“I know that [Lewis] won’t be around forever, but I hope these stories are because they should never be lost. They’re too important to our society, for our culture, and to our nation’s identity,” Aydin said.

Sandi Villarreal is Web Editor & Director of Online Media for Sojourners. Brandon Hook is Online Assistant for Sojourners.

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