Congressman John Lewis drew a standing ovation from a packed auditorium at the American Library Association’s 2013 Annual Conference in Chicago. On hand to celebrate the first book of his new three-part graphic retelling of the civil rights movement from Top Shelf, March, authored with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, Lewis told librarians of a special day in his life, some 25 years earlier.
As a child in a small town in Alabama, Lewis recalled segregation, including the local theatre, where black children were escorted to the balcony, while white children were seated on the lower level.
“I would come home and ask my mother, my father, my grandparents my great grandparents, why? They’d say accept what is, don’t get in the way, don’t get in trouble. But one day in 1955 at the age of 15, in the 10th grade, I heard about Rosa parks, I heard the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the radio. And the action of Rosa Parks and the leadership and the words of Dr. king inspired me to find a way to get in the way. And I got in he way! And I got in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Lewis says he was was so inspired by Dr. King and Rosa Parks, that he began to push. “In 1956 at the age of 16, with some of my bothers, sister, and my first cousin, we went down to the public library in the little town of Troy, Alabama, to try to get library cards, to try to check out some books. And we were told by the librarian that the library was for whites only and not for coloreds. l never went back to the Pike County public library, in the little town of Troy, Alabama until July 5, 1998, for a book signing of my book Walking with the Wind, and hundreds of black and white citizens showed up. And at the end of the event they gave me my library card.”
Lewis later sat for a discussion about March, a graphic novel trilogy, with his collaborators, co-writer Andrew Aydin, and New York Times bestselling artist Nate Powell, a vivid first-hand account of Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights. Book one “spans Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, and his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr."