This book opens with an image of two hands shaking: one black and one white. For me, that sums up what this book is about: reaching across the race divide.
This volume focuses on the increased violence that blacks faced as the civil rights movement gained momentum. It can be difficult to read at times, but the message is so powerful and important, that the story must be told. One part really pained me. It was depicting an attack on civil rights activists in Montgomery, AL on May 20, 1961. A mom had brought her young boy to the demonstration and was encouraging him to partake in the violence.
“C’mon… harder, Danny! That’s my boy… git him! Them eyes… git them eyes!”
It’s an image I could not shake, and it reinforced what I already believed—that racism is taught. It is something that is passed down from generation to generation. I don’t believe that hatred is a natural state, but it is something that is learned.
Another thing that was not surprising yet resonated with me is how religion is twisted and used to justify hatred. This is evident in a quote from Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett.
“The Good Lord was the original segregationist. He put the negro in Africa, separated from all other races.”
Without question, though, the most powerful part of this volume is John Lewis’ speech from the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. The book contains two versions of the speech. The edited version, which was the one he delivered, is presented with images in the graphic novel format. The original version, which was deemed a little too radical by some in the movement, is included as an appendix and is a great historical document.
The speech itself is too long to include here, but I encourage you to read it in its entirely. I will close the post with the closing words of John Lewis’ historic speech.
We will march through the streets of the south; through the streets of Jackson, through the streets of Danville, through the streets of Cambridge, through the streets of Birmingham. But we will march with the spirit of love and with the spirit of dignity that we have shown here today. By the force of our demands, our determination, and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated south into a thousand pieces, and put them together in the image of God and Democracy. We must say: “Wake up, America! Wake up!!” for we cannot stop, and we will not and cannot be patient.