Monday, August 14, 2017


March is the three volume graphic novel of John Lewis’ account of his experiences in the civil rights movement.  Very powerful and very well done.  The final volume won the National Book Award, the first graphic novel to do so.  (Art Spiegelman’s Maus was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer.)

It was strange to be finishing the final volume at the same time Nazis were marching in Charlottesville VA [August 12, 2017].  Rereading "Violence does beget violence, but the opposite is just as true.  Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there’s no fury facing it” is useful to me in days like these.

March:  Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
Marietta, GA:  Top Shelf Productions, 2013

(page 100-101)  Violence does beget violence, but the opposite is just as true.  Fury spends itself pretty quickly when there’s no fury facing it.

March, Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
Marietta, GA:  Top Shelf Productions, 2015
ISBN 978-1-60309-400-9

(131)  While Dr King was in jail, Jim Bevel, who had left SNCC and joined SCLC, set out to organize and train Birmingham’s children. 

“What kinda movement are y’all trying to run here?  You guys are running a scam movement.”

Bevel went into black schools and churches, using the NBC white paper documentary “The Nashville Sit-In Story” - for which we had been interviewed back in 1960 - to teach hundreds of teenagers the techniques of nonviolence.

“In a movement, you don’t deal with the press - you act like there IS no press.  Otherwise you end up staging it.  A movement is when people actually do it out of _conviction_.”

March, Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
Marietta, GA:  Top Shelf Productions, 2016
ISBN 978-1-60309-402-3

(61)  Title 18, section 594 of the United States code makes it a crime to interfere with the right to vote - that law has been on the books since 1948, but nobody has ever been prosecuted under it.  I doubt if there is a policeman of any sort in Mississippi who has not broken that law several times since 1948, but not one of them has been arrested and prosecuted for it.

(91)  In Mississippi that summer (1964) we suffered more than 1000 arrests, 80 beatings, 35 shootings, 35 church burnings, and 30 bombings.

Doctors who evaluated volunteers returning home from Freedom Summer described the symptoms of the emotional and phusical toll as “battle fatigue,” marking “a crisis in the lives of those youths who experience them.”

(136-137)  [John Lewis meets Malcolm X in Nairobi, the last time they talked]  Malcolm talked about the need to shift our focus from race to class, both among one another and between ourselves and the white community.

He said he believed THAT was the root of our problems, not just in America, but all over the world.

Malcolm was saying, in effect, that it is a struggle for the POOR - for those who have been left out and left behind - and that it transcends race.

“I support what you’re doing in the South.  Don’t give up.  This is an ongoing struggle.  Be prepared for the worst, but keep it up - keep fighting.  Peopl are are changing.  There are people all over the world supporting you."

(139)  All the things that made SNCC what it was - decentralized leadership, consensus-driven decision making, respect for individuality - were now tearing it apart.

(159)  [teachers deciding to march in Selma, January 1965]  Besides, how can we teach American civics when we can’t vote?!
NB:  That’s fixed now.  We don’t teach American civics.

(173) Selma police:  “You just doin’ this for the cameras.”

 CT Vivian, long time civil rights campaigner:  “No, it’s a matter of facing your sheriff and facing your judge.  We’re willing to be beaten for democracy.”

Making good trouble, necessary trouble.

(181)  Speech at Jimmie Lee Jackson’s funeral on March 3, 1965 by Martin Luther King Jr:  “He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff who practices lawlessness in the name of law.  He was murdered by the irresponsibiity of every politician, from governors on down, who has fed his constituents the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.  He was murdered by the cowardice of every negro who passively accepts the evils of segregation, and who stands on the sidelines in the struggle for justice."

(222-223)  LBJ’s Voting Rights Act Address on Monday, March 15, 1965:  Wherever there is discrimination, this law will strike down all restrictions used to deny people the right to vote - if state officials refuse to cooperate, then citizens will be registered by Federal officials.

I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.  At times, history and fate meet at a single time, in a single place, to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom.  So it was at Lexington and Concord.  So it was a century ago at Appomattox - so it was last week in Selma, Alabama.  There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans.  Many of them were brutally assaulted.  One good man - a man of god [Rev James Reeb] - was killed.

But there is cause for hope - and for faith in our democracy - in what is happening here tonight.  For the cries of pain, and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government.  In our time, we have come to live with the moments of great crisis.  Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues, issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression, but rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself.

The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue.  And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue - then we will have failed as a people, and as a nation.  For, with a country as with a person, “what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

There is no Negro problem.  There is no Southern problem.  There is no Northern problem.  There is only an American problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment