In the March trilogy, Congressman John Lewis, a renowned figure in the history of the civil rights movement and American social justice, and congressional staffer Andrew Aydin, Lewis’s digital director and policy adviser, wrote a graphic memoir about the struggle for racial justice. An immediate bestseller, March underscored the ability of comics to serve as a powerful platform for serious nonfiction storytelling. In 2016, book three became the first graphic work to receive a National Book Award.
This fall, Lewis and Aydin will continue the saga in Run: Book One (Abrams Comic Arts). A new artist, Afua Richardson, is joining the creative team. March artist Nate Powell will also contribute to the new volume. Run picks up the story right after Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, landmark legislation to prevent discrimination against voters based on race, says Aydin. While the legislation was being enacted, Lewis was in jail. He had been arrested in Georgia for trying to integrate a white church.
The book looks at the forces of white supremacy, which were using the civil rights movement’s tactics against the movement. Following the Voting Rights Act, Aydin notes, “The Klan led the largest hooded march in decades. We’ll see that challenges to the act began days after it was signed into law. We can draw a line from then to the challenges [to voting rights] that we see today.
“The Vietnam War will be a huge part [of Run] and there’s a shift in the civil rights movement’s focus,” he adds. “[It] became, how do you use the right to vote, how do we secure political power.”
Run recounts a number of historic political campaigns and also examines the events surrounding Alabama’s Lowndes County Freedom Organization (which may have been the first African-American group to call itself the Black Panther Party) and its efforts to become an independent political party and run black candidates for office.
At the time, the county had a black population majority, but not a single black citizen was registered to vote. The party used the Black Panther as a symbol of its efforts toward “black power.” Huey Newton requested to use the emblem for the organization he launched in Oakland in 1966.
As to the impact of working with Lewis on both March and Run on his own life, Aydin says that his mother, who raised him alone, died shortly after March won the NBA.
“The night we won the NBA,” he continues, “I asked her, ‘In your wildest dreams, did you ever have a fantasy that I’d grow up and win a National Book Award?’ ” She said, ‘Sweetheart, I love you with all my heart, but, no!’ I surpassed my mother’s wildest dreams for me, and she was able to see it while she was still alive.”