As a teenager growing up in rural Alabama, John Lewis was inspired by a graphic novel about the 1955 bus boycott in the state’s capital, Montgomery. Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story helped spur the young Lewis “to learn about Montgomery” and to “follow the way of peace, the way of non-violence.”
The civil rights leader turned congressman released a graphic novel of his own last year. March (Book One), which was selected as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, is the first in a trilogy about the civil rights movement. The book illustrates Lewis’s experiences of racial segregation during his childhood, his early encounters with Martin Luther King, Jr., and his first arrest during a sit-in at a lunch counter in 1960.
We caught up with Lewis at Book Expo America earlier this summer, where he signed copies of March and told audiences more about the story.
This isn’t the first memoir Congressman Lewis has written (Walking with the Wind was published in 1999 and Across That Bridge came out in 2012), but this time, he’s chosen to tell his story using a medium that he hopes will appeal to younger readers.
“This graphic novel will make it very plain and real simple, with illustrations of how we came to understand the philosophy and the discipline of nonviolence,” Lewis explained. “It is a way of saying to young people, to children, ‘You too can be part of a movement. You can be part of a new civil rights movement to help free those that have been left out and left behind.’”