The conclusion of the March trilogy of books took me longer to read than expected- but I felt that was a good thing, for I was able to truly enjoy and understand the message more fully. There were many times during my reading of the three books that I would stop and do some additional research on the person or situation described in the book, and that to me is always a good sign of a non-fiction book…I want to know MORE.
The second book ended with the tragic bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham AL in 1963, and the third books picks up there to give us a tableau of the destruction that killed four innocent girls. I appreciated that an effort was made to highlight other everyday heroes of that time period, plus share other lesser know casualties such as the two boys who lost their lives following the chaos of the Birmingham bombing. They all deserve the respect of having their stories shared and their names remembered.
Representative Lewis is honest in admitting that there was a significant amount of infighting among members of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) as different agendas were presented and voted on, in how the groups could further the Civil Rights Movement. There were so many injustices being inflicted on Blacks all across the nation, especially in the south, thus there were many different perspectives on ways to combat these issues. Lewis chooses to concentrate on voting rights, although his wishes and actions don’t always match the stated goals of the SNCC. The narrative does a full circle in this book, as the undated march across the bridge in the first book is clarified in the third as being the pivotal Selma AL march to demonstrate the need for voting rights. The march and the media attention it garnered helped push through legislation for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.
As with any memoir, all recollections are those of the author and are prone to their spin on the events. While an effort is made to be fair and partial, some bias still seeps through the narrative. John Lewis clearly aligns himself with the non-violence philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr, and throws some (mild) shade at some of his former SNCC co-leaders who took another path in the Civil Rights Movement. No matter, he is still a giant of the movement, and others can stand tall because of their different but still significant contributions.
I feel I have not given enough credit in the past two reviews to the co-author Andrew Aydin and the artist Nate Powell. Aydin helped Lewis organize his recollections and put it together in a cohesive story. The books were originally his idea, and he masterfully connects the story arcs and did extensive research. Powell helps the books come alive, and makes the narrative flow through his powerful black and white illustrations. His work is historically accurate and he faithfully duplicates what many real people looked like, for as I did further research on some of the people, real photographs show that he captured their essence. This book series would not have been half as excellent if not for their collaboration with Representative Lewis.
While this book is the stated conclusion to the series, there remains a possibility of further stories. Who is calling on the last page and why? I’ll pick up any additional books from the amazing trio of Lewis, Aydin and Powell!
Review of March:Book Two can be found here.
Review of March: Book One can be found here.