A longtime congressman and legendary civil rights veteran, John Lewis is at this morning’s Book and Author Breakfast to talk about his new graphic autobiography March, the first of a three-volume work to be published by Top Shelf in August.
Lewis notes the book was originally planned to be a single volume, but after “we tried cutting it here and there, there was just so much to tell. We decided to do three volumes so we could tell the whole story.” The “we” includes Andrew Aydin, a member of Lewis’s staff who co-wrote March, and award-winning cartoonist Nate Powell, who did the illustrations.
Lewis hopes the book will serve as reminder of how far African-Americans and the country as a whole have come from the days of racist segregation. And the book will also document the contributions of civil rights veterans who may not be as well-known today. “This book is not just my story, it’s the story of what I witnessed with a lot of people who may not be known to this generation. For instance, a lot of people think Martin Luther King was the only person to speak at the 1963 March on Washington.”
Although Lewis is enthusiastic about producing the graphic autobiography, he acknowledges he was skeptical at first. “Andrew had the idea and I said, ‘maybe,’ but he kept asking me about it, so I finally said let’s do it.” But Lewis is also quick to note that he was inspired by a comic book many years ago. Lewis said he first read Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, a much acclaimed 1956 comic book from the period that was commissioned by the pacifist organization Fellowship of Reconciliation with permission from Martin Luther King, that outlined King’s nonviolent philosophy and its application to the boycott to protest the segregated bus system in Montgomery, Ala.
“I read the Montgomery Story,” Lewis said, “and it was moving. I followed the drawings, and it made it all real and explained the philosophy of nonviolence. I talk to thousands of kids every year, and I think the graphic novel I’m doing can be used to get that message out to people.”
Top Shelf is bringing a 24-page booklet excerpt of March to distribute to all Breakfast attendees. Lewis and Aydin will sign them at the publisher’s booth (1005), 1–3 p.m.