March is a graphic novel that vividly presents a first-hand account of John lewis’s lifelong struggle for civil and human rights. The inspiration of the book was drawn from the 1958 comic book Martin Luther King that inspired generations. Now, March becomes one of the books to inspire others by telling a great story.
The graphic novel is an easy read. Highly recommended to US history learners, student activists, and anyone believing in human rights.
Nonviolence, injustice, and change
–book review of March
In history, people are familiar with many revolutions and movements, and few of them avoided bloody conflicts. The goal of a movement is usually to challenge a norm and make changes to it to represent the wills of the activists; under such an objective, violent conflicts are susceptible to failure because while the objective is against the current norm, the violent form of activism is against the law. In a recent book that I read, the Overstory, for instance, the environmental activists were sentenced to jail because although they intended to save the forests, they trespassed others’ property even engaged in something considered “domestic terrorism” by the legal system. The graphic novel March tells a story of nonviolence resistance that embodies faith, hope, resistance, tolerance, and perseverance, and the successful story is a great model of nonviolent protests.
Behind every revolution and movement, there is anger. The outrage comes from injustice, dehumanization, and even the helplessness in the face of such prejudice. In the graphic novel, the rage comes to life when the activists role-played arrogant white supremacists and African Americans being discriminated against. Although desegregation was made possible by legislation, discrimination and extreme racial prejudice were still prevalent in many Southern states. Desegregation became a title, not the reality. When outrage becomes so strong, the most direct reaction were violent protests. One student activist said, “Maybe I can bring signs, or make them. Maybe I can drive people to the site, but I can’t be nonviolent. I cannot.” For people like him, it was too much to react against injustice violently. Understanding the potential consequences and inefficiency of aggressive protests and influenced by pacifists like Martin Luther King and Ghandi, the activists and members of SNCC decided that “nonviolence was the way”.
In one caption, Lewis’s explains, “violence does beget violence”: violent protests would incite more racial hatred and even backfire at the protestors. Nonviolence is a belief, a peaceful way of protest, and a clever strategy. For the protestors, the hardest thing was to “learn to truly understand, deep in [their] heart, how to find love for [their] attackers.” Instead of letting the discriminators “shake the faith” of the protestors, they tried to learn to love them, and to use love to thaw the frigid racial barrier and hate. The activists engaged in sit-ins in local restaurants that refused to serve food to African Americans, patiently, tolerantly, and slowly making changes through the consistent and growing effort. Unfortunately, sometimes “fury spends itself pretty quickly when there’s no fury facing it”; even nonviolent sit-ins faced violent attacks and unjust reactions of the police. The peaceful protestors were beaten, drenched with condiments, sprayed with fire hoses, gassed with insecticides, and even incarcerated when all they did was peacefully sitting in. They were arrested multiple times, which perfectly demonstrates racial profiling and injustice in the legal system—even under nonviolent protests.
Under such injustice, the activists used love and hope to subdue the outrage, which could have led to irreversible consequences. The method of reform was innovative: “[O]ur revolt was as much against the traditional black leadership structure as it was against segregation and discrimination,” reflected John Lewis. Nevertheless, it projected true determination to combat discrimination is the most peaceful way possible. The protestors understand perfectly the destruction of war and violent conflicts, and they were dedicated to a peaceful yet lifechanging cause.
Eventually, the effort started a snowball effect. With more innocent protestors incarcerated, more student activists participated in sit-ins to silently protest the racial prejudice. With determination, persistence, and faith, the Civil Rights Act was passed, and love slowly desegregated African Americans and white Americans.
Although racial profiling still exists and the legacy of slavery still impacts the world today, and there are other ongoing injustices that require protests and resistance, John Lewis’s story sets a successful precedent of nonviolent resistance. Using love and perseverance, the sit-ins made a difference and led to final legislation; similarly, in the face of more social problems, people should always look out for peaceful resolutions.
information: March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell