Congressman John Lewis Reflects on Civil Rights Past and Future in New Graphic Novel

Democrat John Lewis is more than an ordinary member of Congress in the view of many Americans.

The child of southern sharecroppers, Lewis became a pillar of the Civil Rights Movement as a student activist and is a legend in U.S. history for his direct protests against racial segregation.

In a new graphic novel, March: Book One, the longtime lawmaker tells his story of fighting Jim Crow through non-violent civil disobedience.

The other chapters of the book are set to be released over the next two years.

It was 50 years ago when Lewis was the youngest speaker to address onlookers at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where he delivered a fiery speech against those policies.

Now an elder statesman, Lewis says this comic book is a story he hopes will speak to a younger audience and those familiar with civil rights history in a new way.

“It is my life story, growing up in rural Alabama, attending non-violent workshops and starting to sit-in on a regular basis. Going on the Freedom Rides. Being the youngest speaker at the March on Washington,” he says. “It tells the story of my leading the march from Selma to Montgomery for the right to vote. Yes, being beaten, left bloodied and unconscious, being arrested and jailed more than forty times. But it is a book not just for young people and not just for children, but for all ages,” he  says.

The congressman was in Louisville this week to promote March: Book One at a forum hosted by the Kentucky Author Forum. Lewis was interviewed by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.

Since first being elected to Congress, Lewis has been a continued champion of civil rights causes and an outspoken critic of the Supreme Court's recent decision invalidating a key provision of the Voting Rights Act earlier this year. 

“Even yesterday on the House floor the Republican leader came to me and said, 'John we need to meet in the next few days to discuss what we're going to do on the Voting Rights Act.' We've had some meetings, but we're going to fix it,” says Lewis. “I think the Supreme Court was wrong, but we will fix whatever they say is wrong because they did put a dagger in the Voting Rights Act.”

Though Lewis has moved to the halls of power activism isn’t in his past. Just last week, he was arrested along with a handful of fellow lawmakers during a rally favoring immigration reform.

I talked to Lewis about the voting rights, comic books and his thoughts on Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s outreach to black voters and views on civil rights.

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