Latest Installment of Graphic Format Memoir of John Lewis Deals with Ongoing LegacyBreaking News
tags: comics, biography, voting rights, John Lewis
Back in 2013, the debut of a memoir in comic-book form by civil rights figure and longtime Atlanta congressman John Lewis seemed an unlikely format for a legendary activist with gravitas to spare. But Lewis’s March trilogy—co-authored with aide Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell—proved to be a juggernaut, landing on bestseller lists, securing a place on high-school and college curricula, and ultimately earning a National Book Award.
The March trilogy chronicles Lewis’s early life and involvement in the civil rights movement, ending with the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Lewis had planned to continue the work, and before the congressman’s death in July 2020, he and Aydin had drafted the script for the Run series. The first volume of Run, published in August by Abrams ComicArts, covers the tumultuous events of 1965-1966, including schisms between established civil rights leaders and Black Power activists, the history-making election of Julian Bond to the Georgia Legislature. Just in March, the book does not shy away from unvarnished accounts of history. It opens with a fearsome scene of Klan intimidation and closes with Lewis’s departure from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Today, with political storms swirling around both the issues of expanding voter access and teaching the country’s racist history, Run feels more timely than ever. “The fight that’s happening today is a direct continuation of the fight that began on August 7, 1965, immediately after the signing of the Voting Rights Act,” Aydin said.
The spread above, which depicts protests that followed efforts to block Bond from taking his seat in the Georgia General Assembly, echoes current efforts to undermine elections. “These are the same factions, the same groups of people,” Aydin said. “They may have switched parties. They may wear different ties. But they’re essentially the same group of people.”
Aydin spoke about the new book via video call, seated in front of a bookshelf lined with editions of March and history books used for researching the series. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You must have very mixed emotions with the book coming out now. The last time we spoke was shortly after Congressman Lewis died. What has it been like for you and the rest of the team putting this new book out?
Since March: Book Three came out [in August 2016], it has been a period of tremendous loss in my life. I lost my mother, my grandmother, and then the congressman. I even lost my dog, Delilah, in February. So in some ways, I’m hopeful that finishing this book, putting it out into the world, marks the end of that period.
It’s so hard to see it be successful and not be able to share that with the congressman. We had so much fun making these books, talking about them, going to [San Diego] Comic Con and Dragon Con, being out there engaging with people. I keep fighting the impulse every time we get a new review, I want to call him and say, “Congressman, I’ve got some good news for you.” I keep waiting for him to call me and ask, “Do you have any good news?” Because in those dark times in Congress over the past few years, there was a sense that this is where he got his joy from. It was a sustainer to be able to keep up this work.
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