Review by C.J. Bunce
“Everybody can read comics,” says civil rights leader, real-life superhero, and Congressman John Lewis describing “get out to vote” preparations for an Alabama county primary in May 1966 in his new, posthumously published book Run: Book One, the follow-up to the award-winning three-book series of graphic novels called March. March was Congressman Lewis’s story of his journey–really America’s journey–toward enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In Run: Book One Lewis continues the ongoing struggle for civil rights. In comics form, the story is accessible to every audience, as the comics reader and comics convention guest knew well.
As students of American history may be aware, after every major historical success there is implementation, response, the aftermath. Adults today can probably recall being taught about the Civil War in grade school, but how about the bitter struggles afterward during Reconstruction? Similarly American History classes may have touched on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, but did you learn about the key players and struggles that followed to implement the Voting Rights Act? Run begins that next chapter as Lewis prepares to run for government office, and the country and the movement tries to gain a footing and leadership to take the country forward–a compelling story every American of any age should read.
The beginning of this part of Lewis’s journey is about pushback, by the KKK, white supremacists, casual racists, and others, including pushback from civil rights movement leaders against Lewis’s own views in support of non-violence, about rigging elections against black candidates and voter suppression, about leaders in the movement and ordinary citizens trying simply to enjoy the newfound equal rights, like Jonathan Daniels, Vernon Dahmer, and Samuel Younge, and a country under President Lyndon Johnson on a collision course in Vietnam. Anyone comparing Reconstruction and the latter half of the 1960s documented in Run: Book One to the past five years of U.S. politics will find many painful parallels.
Run: Book One was written by Lewis (the book indicates he was able to review most of the pages of this book prior to his death last summer) with collaborator Andrew Aydin, with artwork by Nate Powell and L. Fury. It includes an extensive section with detailed footnotes, sources, and historical biographies. With the citations the book appears to be an exhaustive document of the historical record, delivered in a straightforward manner, making this a useful text for current and future audiences. Adding Run to the March trilogy that is now in all good school classrooms and public libraries across the country will further help ensure citizens of the U.S. have access to the lessons of history and America can continue its journey toward a “more perfect union.”
A clear, impressive, fact-based look at an important segment of U.S. history without hyperbole, Run: Book One is available for pre-order now from your local comic shop or here at Amazon, available from publisher Abrams ComicArts everywhere August 3, 2021.