By John Lewis
Top Shelf Productions, 2016, 246 pages, Nonfiction Graphic Novel
John Lewis was one of the nation’s first Freedom Riders—one of the people who staged sit-ins at segregated lunch counters and movie theaters, and who insisted on riding the bus into Birmingham, Alabama, even though Klan leaders and policemen threatened the bus occupants at every stop. As the president of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), Lewis was one of the speakers the day Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis was also heavily involved in fighting for voting rights for all citizens. He was one of those attacked on Bloody Sunday, and he participated in the march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama--one of the main protests that encouraged the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
I don’t usually read graphic novels, but this is one that I think is an important read for anyone. Lewis’ dedication to what he calls the social gospel, and his tireless, nonviolent, committed work to that gospel is inspiring. Despite the dark subjects, this story has an upbeat tone, switching between two storylines: Lewis’ early work to end segregation, and the present-day story of now-Senator Lewis receiving a Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. While we have definitely come a long way from the conditions of Lewis’ childhood, the eerie familiarity of some scenes suggests we still have a long way to go.