March: Book One Summary

March: Book by John Lewis

The first in the trilogy, this graphic novel based on the life of John Lewis, opens with a group of African Americans marching across a bridge. The police tell them to turn around and they choose to kneel instead. They are then assaulted and have tear gas thrown at them. This scene acts as a prologue to the book March.

The scene then jumps to January 20, 2009 in Washington D.C. where Congressman John Lewis is waking up, getting dressed, and preparing to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama. John stops in his office and greets some visitors who were only expecting to see his office, not actually meet Mr. Lewis. The young boys notice that John has several statues of chickens in his office. This observation leads John to a flashback to his childhood on a farm in Alabama.

He had an affinity for the chickens and treated them as his friends. When he was given a Bible and decided he wanted to be a preacher, he would practice his sermons on his chickens. He would hold funeral services when they died, and he even tried to baptize them.

John then flashes back to 1951 when his uncle offered to drive him north to New York to visit some relatives. Although they occasionally feared for their safety as they drove, John enjoyed the trip, including his first ride on an escalator in the big city. He stayed two months then happily returned to his family.

That fall his father asked him to skip school to help with the harvesting on the family farm. John loved school and didn't want to miss; therefore, he would hide and then run for the school bus when he saw it drive up. His dad did not punish him and learned how important education was to John.

John first heard Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio. Then he learned that he was supporting Rosa Parks in her case. John admired Dr. King for using his position as a preacher to reach people and help organize the bus boycott. At age sixteen, John delivered his first sermon and had his picture put in the paper for it.

After high school, John decided to go to a college for ministers in Nashville through a work study program. He felt as though he weren't doing enough to support the social justice movement, so he decided to try to transfer to Troy State, which only white people attended. When they rejected him, he met with Dr. King who offered to support him in his endeavor if he really wanted to sue the school. John had to talk it over with his parents because this lawsuit could put his whole family in danger. His parents said they weren't willing to go through it.

John then flashes back to the late fifties when a group called F.O.R. (Fellowship of Reconciliation) began training students in the ways of pacifism in order to stage sit ins at lunch counters. John participated in these nonviolent protests, which would often result in the African Americans being harassed, beaten, and hauled off to jail.

When John was taken to the Nashville jail, along with over eighty others, the government wanted to let them out quickly, so they lowered their bail to only five dollars, but the protesters refused to pay; therefore, that night they were all released. They were represented pro bono in court by Mr. Looby who wanted to have separate trials for each person, but the judge refused. The judge then found them all guilty and announced their punishment as a fifty dollar fine or thirty days of jail time. Again, they refused to pay. After several days in jail, they were once again released.

Shortly after, a stick of dynamite flew through the window of their generous lawyer, so they marched to the mayor's office. They asked Mr. West, who was known to be fairly tolerant, to insist that they be allowed to eat at the lunch counters. Finally, they got their wish.

Related Links:

March: Book One Test Quiz
March: Book One Quotes
March: Book One Important Characters
Literature Summaries

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