March: Book Three Summary

March: Book by John Lewis

The third book of the trilogy opens with a scene in a Birmingham church where a bomb hits and several children are killed. Then teenagers who had been at a Klan rally heard about the bombing and shot a thirteen-year-old boy. Others drove through the town throwing rocks. A police officer shot a sixteen-year-old boy and claimed it was an accident. These events all occurred in September of 1963 and resulted in the deaths of several African American children. Dr. King spoke about the dead children, and he knew the African Americans needed to continue to fight for their rights. This bombing may have been spawned by Governor George Wallace who had declared segregation forever just two weeks prior to the event. Diane Nash, her husband James Bevel, and John Lewis came up with a plan to march to the capitol with the goal of forcing the governor out of office and securing the African American people's right to vote.

The story then flashes back to 2009 where John Lewis is able to shake hands with Barack Obama at his inauguration.

Back to 1963, sixty-three protesters had been arrested in Selma, Alabama following the bombing. They came up with a process to try to register people to vote. In Dallas county almost no African Americans were registered. They tried to stop people by making them fill out various forms, asking them to count items in jars, or giving them literacy tests. The government was forcing the African Americans to fail. The African Americans began to protest in front of the courthouse. John Lewis was arrested and spent several weeks in prison.

While he was locked up, they organized Freedom Day, which consisted of a line of hundreds of African Americans trying to register to vote. It was hot, and the people in line were not allowed to step out, even for a bathroom break. By noon only twelve people had been let into the courthouse. The Alabama state troopers arrived and declared that no one was allowed to bring the people in line any food or water. When two SNCC secretaries tried to bring supplies, they were beaten. A photographer tried to capture the abuse, and he was struck as well. At 4:30 the courthouse closed. Only a few people were let in, but no one had left the line, and they considered it a victory.

Meanwhile, Bob Moses, the head of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), began organizing people in Mississippi. He had a graduate degree from Harvard and decided they should hold a mock election at the same time as the actual state elections; they gave it the name of Freedom Vote. The African Americans would hold their own elections with their own candidates to show how they were being excluded.

Fannie Lou Hamer attempted to register to vote and was fired from her job, arrested and severely beaten. She then joined SNCC. One beating she endured left her with a permanent limp.

John Lewis heard of President Kennedy's death before he was supposed to give a speech in Detroit, so he turned it into a eulogy for the President. It reminded him of Medgar Evers and how the people who supported the movement continued to be cut down. When President Johnson took over, he announced that he would support the civil rights legislation, which seemed encouraging, despite the fact that he was a Texan who had in the past blocked civil rights legislation.

Next, some of the protesters bought share of the Dobbs corporation, which owned the Toddle House, a restaurant in Atlanta. When they went in to eat, the police were called. It made no sense that they could own part of a company but not be served by it. People throughout the area began boycotting establishments owned by the Dobbs Corporation. Within a few months, the company integrated all of their establishments.

Then, they had a meeting to decide how to proceed with the Mississippi Freedom Project. The proposal supported by Al Lowenstein was to have thousands of students force a showdown between the local and federal governments. The proposal from John Blyth suggested creating Freedom Schools, which would focus on a six-week literacy program. They decided to train more leaders and move forward with securing the right to vote for all people in the year 1964.

In April John Lewis met with Robert Kennedy at the American Society of Newspaper Editors Convention. He made a speech announcing their intent to secure the right to vote. People in Mississippi saw this announcement as an attack and Governor Paul Johnson prepared by doubling the size of the police force and stockpiling weapons.

That summer would be the Freedom Summer when they created the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in order to try to get some African Americans elected into office. The Klan responded by burning crosses in sixty-four of Mississippi's eighty-two counties as a warning. In Ohio more than three hundred African American students showed up for training. A week later these volunteers arrived in Mississippi to help register black people to vote.

John got a call that three of the volunteers went missing. They had been driving back from a burned down Freedom School when they were arrested for speeding and taken to jail. According to the sheriff, they were released late the same night. The torched shell of their car was pulled out of the creek. They wanted to search for the bodies, but the police told them they'd be trespassing; they went anyway. The FBI and navy were sent to help search.

On July 2, 1964 the Civil Rights Act was approved, which banned discrimination in public places, forbade discrimination in hiring practices, and ended segregation in schools, libraries, and parks. Demonstrators in Selma were beaten for protesting the arrest of those who'd tested the new law, so John joined them. Their arrests led to a rule forbidding gatherings of more than three people in Selma. It halted the protest movement.

In Mississippi volunteers were still trying to get people to register to vote. That summer Mississippi witnessed thirty-five shootings and thirty bombings. The people who endured these hardships suffered from battle fatigue. In August the three bodies were finally found.

At the Democratic National Convention, the African Americans made sure cameras were in place so that their testimony could be heard. Fannie Lou Hamer told her story. She told how when she was in jail for trying to register to vote, a black inmate was instructed to beat her with a crowbar. Then a second inmate took over and hit her feet. Then sat on her feet and beat her head. Several more people testified before Dr. Martin Luther King was called. President Johnson was unhappy with the publicity and didn't know what to do. He had been using wiretaps on Dr. King's and Bayard Rustin's to see what the African Americans were planning to say. The African Americans were upset that President Johnson had turned on them when he didn't need to win the South in order to win the presidency.

SNCC was burned out and falling apart, so when Harry Belafonte invited some of the members to join him in Senegal, they went, including John. After Senegal, they flew to Guinea, which was like a vacation. There they spoke to Malcolm X. They continued traveling until they eventually returned home after seventy-two days.

On December 4 Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Then Dr. King met with President Johnson to discuss a Voting Rights Act, but the President refused to put it into effect. Dr. King organized a march in Selma, and another, and another. More and more people joined, bringing toothbrushes with them in case they ended up in jail. Shortly after word came that Malcolm X had been assassinated.

In March 1965 they organized a march across the bridge led by John Lewis, which is the opening scene in the first book of this trilogy. In this march John gets beaten in the head. Dr. King came to visit him in the hospital. It became known as Bloody Sunday. After another march two days later, three ministers were walking home when they were attacked by some Klansmen. James Reeb died. Finally, President Johnson stepped up and gave a speech admitting the country had a problem. Two weeks after Bloody Sunday, they began their march on the capitol, covering fifty-four miles.

Four months later the 1965 Voting Rights Act was signed into law.

Back in 2009, John returned from the inauguration to many messages of people thanking him for all that he had done over the years. Even Ted Kennedy called him. Then John was approached about the idea of putting what he had been through into a comic book.

Related Links:

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

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