March: Book Three is the final work in a trilogy of graphic novels focusing on John Lewis’s role in the Civil Rights Movement during the first half of the 1960s. Co-written by Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, March: Book Three culminates with the famous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in March 1965. Lewis led this march as part of a larger campaign to advocate for equal voting rights in the South. This march helped win the necessary support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which President Johnson signed into law on August 6, 1965. One of the final scenes in the book depicts President Johnson giving the pen that he used to sign this legislation to Lewis in recognition of the role the Lewis played in making the Voting Rights Act a reality.
Although March: Book Three can be read on its own, it has a greater impact when it is read in conjunction with the first two books in the trilogy. However, in preparing to teach this summer’s seminar, I kept my focus on the third book since it is the book that won this year’s awards. Luckily for my students and me, Paula Connolly came to the rescue. Paula had already studied the first two books in the trilogy, and this past Friday she gave a guest presentation to my class on these books. During her presentation, she also explained how graphic novels differ from conventional novels.
Paula’s presentation underscored for me what I see as one of the great strengths of the English Department. In my nearly 34 years of teaching in this department, I have witnessed countless examples of faculty members supporting each other in the classroom. This support includes giving guest presentations, sharing syllabi, mentoring new faculty members, and exchanging teaching tips. In some cases, this support involves covering classes when faculty members are physically unable to meet their classes. This situation happened to me last semester when I was unexpectedly hospitalized after the electrical side of my heart stopped working properly. Without any advanced notice, Paula stepped in and covered my classes. As a result, not a single one of my class sessions was cancelled during my heart crisis.
By supporting each other in the classroom, we are able to accomplish more than we could if we taught in isolation. In my reading of March: Book Three, I see a similar message. By marching together, John Lewis and the 600 other peaceful demonstrators who set out to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge were able to accomplish much more than they would have if each of them had walked across the bridge alone.
Quirky Quiz Question — John Lewis, the co-author of March: Book Three, lives in Atlanta, which is also the home of Emory University. Who, among our current faculty members, received a PhD from Emory University?
Last week’s answer: Thomas Paine
Several leaders of the American Revolution went on to support the French Revolution, including the famous pamphleteer who wrote Common Sense and Rights of Man. Does anybody know the name of this writer?