March: Book Two Summary

March: Book by John Lewis

The second book in the trilogy opens in the same way that the first one does with John Lewis attending the inauguration of Barack Obama. John then flashes back to his senior year of college when he attended American Baptist while also participating in the nonviolent protests against unfair treatment of the African Americans during the 1960's. Their quiet protests in restaurants were met with more violent backlash, such as being closed in and having a fumigator to remove pests turned on. John was shocked that one human could treat another human so poorly.

They also tried stand ins at movie theaters where they would be refused admission. Sometimes the police would show up and use brutality to force the African Americans out of the ticket lines. John led a protest to the violence during which twenty-six people were arrested.

In 1961 John saw an ad in The Student Voice, a SNCC publication, looking for people to test the Boynton vs. Virginia decision which outlawed segregation on buses. He arrived at the Fellowship House, run by Quakers, and met Freedom Riders Joe Perkins, Jim Peck, Elton Cox, Dr. Walter Bergman, Jimmy McDonald, Charles Person, Ed Blankenheim, Genevieve Hughes, Albert Bigelow, Hank Thomas, and James Farmer. They reviewed local and state laws along with the teachings of Ghandi, Thoreau, Emerson, and others. They sent letters to President Kennedy, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover explaining their plan. The letters were never answered. They set off in two groups on long bus rides. They were met with opposition and violence.

Along the way, John received a telegram inviting him to Philadelphia for an interview for a position with the Peace Corps. He decided to go but planned to rejoin the Freedom Riders in Birmingham; however, his group was halted before making it to Birmingham. They were firebombed and attacked by a mob. Eugene Connor, Birmingham's Chief of Police, was asked why it took police officers so long to arrive, and he claimed that he had given many of them the day off because it was Mother's Day; however, the rumor was that he had promised the KKK fifteen minutes before he would send police to the scene. Diane Nash called Jim Farmer and wanted to resume the ride despite the threat of death.

Ten of them continued the ride where the previous group had left off. Dr. Bergman, still bloody from the first bus attack, was beaten again and suffered a stroke and brain damage that would leave him paralyzed for life. At the next stop the bus was emptied except for the Freedom Riders who more brutality before being arrested. Later they were dropped off at the Tennessee border late at night in the middle of Klan country. They found a brave homeowner who let them hide inside. Leo Lillard drove his car from Nashville to pick them up. The news on the radio said that the Freedom Riders had returned to their college campuses, so they initially felt safe until it was reported that they were headed to Birmingham in a private car, but they arrived safely at the Greyhound station. The buses kept getting canceled, so they were forced to sleep in the station. Finally, a bus driver came and the rides resumed.

In Montgomery the Freedom Riders exited the bus to find a huge mob waiting. When they climbed back on to protect themselves, the driver refused to go. Eventually, Floyd Mann, Alabama's Public Safety Director, showed up and made the crowd disperse. The riders went to Ralph Abernathy's church where Martin Luther King, Jr. was coming to speak. Robert Kennedy called while over 1500 people prayed and sang to say that U.S. Marshalls were on the way to fight the growing mob outside of the church. Some marshalls arrived, but it wasn't enough to hold the crowd back, so the Alabama National Guard took over. When they went to leave after midnight, they found that the National Guard was keeping them in. Around 4:30 a.m. they were finally allowed to leave.

On their next ride, they were arrested in Jackson. They were put on jail and sentenced to pay a $200 fine or spend 60 days in jail. Since they didn't want to pay, John and many others had to stay in prison. They were transferred to Hinds County jail and then two weeks later taken to Parchman Farm due to the number of Freedom Riders being arrested. Fred Jones was the superintendent there who led their mistreatment. The guards threatened to take their mattresses if they didn't stop singing and behave, so they lost their mattresses. Then they were sprayed with hoses. Twenty-two days later, bond was posted on their behalf. They had national acclaim.

SNCC then split their efforts with Diane Nash leading the focus on direct action and Charlie Jones leading the effort to register voters. Herbert Lee, who worked with Bob Moses to register voters, was shot and killed by E.H. Hurst, a member of the Mississippi legislature. He was found not guilty and later the only black witness recanted his testimony.

John Lewis enrolled at Fisk University, but he didn't really fit in. When he returned to SNCC, new people had taken over the leadership. John was named to the executive committee. When George Corley Wallace, Jr., became the new governor of Alabama, he announced, "Segregation forever." After a new protest, Dr. King was taken to jail on Good Friday where he penned the "Letters from Birmingham Jail."

In May they began to involve children in their protests, and Bull Connor, who was still in charge of the police arrested them. The next day he refused to arrest, because the numbers were too high, so he turned hoses on and sent dogs after them. More people joined the movement. Medgar Evers, a field secretary, was shot walking up his driveway. Chuck McDew resigned as chairman of SNCC, and John Lewis was elected.

He moved into an apartment in Atlanta. He was asked to meet with President Kennedy to discuss the situation. Dr. King also attended. Despite protests, they planned to continue to March. In his hotel in New York, John saw Malcolm X whose methods differed from John's but who supported him nonetheless. The march began before John got to the front. The program included music from famous artists. John was the sixth speaker that day, and Dr. King spoke last. He told of his dream for America. After his speech, John shook hands with President Kennedy; it was the last time he saw him alive.

Related Links:

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

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