Georgia Rep. John Lewis is an American icon and one of the key figures of the Civil Rights Movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.
Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents “March: Book One” (Top Shelf, $9.99- digital;$14.95-soft cover), a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell, winner of the Eisner Award and L.A. Times Book Prize finalist.
“March” is released two weeks before the 50th anniversary of the Aug. 28 March on Washington. Then a 23-year-old leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis was the day’s youngest speaker. While the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech as the event’s final featured speaker, it is Lewis, who today, is the last speaker standing.
“The Great March on Washington” was organized by a group of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations, under the theme “jobs, and freedom”. Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000. Lewis was the sixth person to speak that day, imploring those listening to “Wake up!”
“It was an unbelievable day,” recalled Lewis. “Hundreds and thousands of Americans came together—Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, men, women, children. When I was introduced, I looked out over that audience, that sea of humanity, and saw all of these young people on my right. And then, I looked to my left and saw many young people in the trees. Then, I looked straight ahead and saw hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, with their feet in the water, trying to cool off, and I said: ‘This is it’ – and I started speaking.” The March have continued to reverberated in American society, and is widely credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).
The 73-year-old congressman is scheduled to attend the upcoming March on Washington anniversary ceremonies, but in the preceding weeks is promoting the “March” graphic novel (a contemporary-styled comic book) with a national media campaign.Lewis has been crisscrossing the nation attending various book fairs and comic conventions to bring those days to life for a new audience. You see, for Lewis, it was a 10-cent comic book that spurred his advocacy. As a young man, Lewis got his hands on the 1958 comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,” which, he told the Washington Post, with its poster-colored lesson of nonviolent protest, inspired many student activists. “It was about the way of love,” Lewis said. “We were beaten and arrested … and that comic book inspired me to make trouble. But it was the good kind of trouble.”
The 128-page book features a unique blub from former President Bill Clinton: “Congressman John Lewis has been a resounding moral voice in the quest for equality for more than 50 years, and I’m so pleased that he 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.”
“Book One,” of the three-part series, spans Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader Civil Rights Movement. “March” is a vivid first-hand account testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.
BET Networks celebrates the 50th anniversary of the history-making March on Washington with LIVE coverage starting Saturday, August 24 at 11 AM ET/ 8 AM PT. The two-hour anniversary special, “50: THE MARCH & THE MOVEMENT,” will honor the trailblazers who orchestrated one of the largest and most productive rallies for human rights in United States history. The BET News special will cover every angle with contributors reporting along the March route and complement the momentous occasion with exclusive interviews from political figures and renowned civil rights activists. “50: THE MARCH & THE MOVEMENT” airs LIVE Saturday, August 24 at 11 AM ET/ 8 AM PT on BET and CENTRIC.
Award-winning journalist Ed Gordon will anchor coverage of the anniversary march from the Newseum in Washington D.C., along with George Currie, Marc Lamont Hill, Keith Boykin and other special guests who will offer analysis and commentary on the day’s events. This discussion will be fueled with questions posted by our online audience on BET.com. Additionally, Gordon will bring together four civil rights icons and new generation leaders including Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), the last remaining speaker from the original march in 1963, Andrew Young, close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who attended the march as a volunteer and Elder Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. Each of these guests will offer their reflections on the movement, examine the heaviest burdens saddling African American communities today and give their thoughts on how to re-energize younger generations. The BET News special will also chronicle the march in a vivid retrospective exploring its historical significance and the behind-the-scenes story of how the event was organized. Reported by BET correspondent Andre Showell, this segment will feature social activist Alexis McGill Johnson, Executive Director of American Values Institute and Julian Bond, a noted civil rights activist/historian.
Viewers can follow every angle of the March with up-to-the-minute updates and commentary on BET.com/News and join the conversation about the special on Twitter by using hashtag: #MarchDC50.