By: Peggy Roalf
Publish Date: Feb. 8, 2018, 1:30 p.m.
In celebration of Black History Month, Society of Illustrators will open the exhibition, The Art of MARCH: A Civil Rights Masterpiece on February 28th The show presents the story of Congressman John Lewis's experience in the civil rights movement as told in his graphic novel, March, illustrated by Nate Powell and co-written by Andrew Aydin. This exhibition takes visitors on a visceral tour of the movement, illuminating pivotal moments, people, and philosophies through the display of over 150 pieces of original art, and interactive materials.
The three-volume novel opens with the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Spanning Lewis' youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, it goes on to cover his involvement as founding member of the Student Nonviolet Coordinating Committee [SNCC}, the struggle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, and builds to a climax on the steps of Selma’s City Hall on “Bloody Sunday.
Nate Powell’s illustrations bring signal moments of the movement to life in gutter-jumping frames rendered in dramatic black and white. Volume Three opens with Fannie Lou Hamer’s speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, was arrested, beaten and tortured by police when she lined up to register to vote. Her speech so alarmed President Lyndon Johnson that he began working his legendary persuasion throughout Congress to ensure passage of the Voting Rights Act.
When asked by a New York Times reporter about the Black Lives Matter movement, Congressman Lewis said he hoped that people struggling today would look back to the 1960s to “study and understand what we did and what we attempted to accomplish….We did it in orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion,” he added, noting that discipline and time for preparation were essential.
Mr. Lewis’s hope is to help new generations of readers visualize the possibilities of political engagement through this graphic novel, whose second volume won an Eisner award and the third is a National Book Award winner for young people’s literature. In 2016, the New York City Department of Education announced that March would be part of this fall’s Passport to Social Studies program for eighth graders. The series has also been included in reading programs at colleges around the country, and featured in public library book clubs for middle-schoolers.
The Art of MARCH: A Civil Rights Masterpiece exhibition, opening February 28th, is co-curated by John Lind (Creative Director, Kitchen Sink Books, an imprint of Dark Horse Comics) and Charles Brownstein (Executive Director, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund).
The Society of Illustrators will be organizing events open to the public in conjunction with the exhibition. An opening reception will take place on Thursday, March 1st, beginning at 6:30 PM. A schedule of lectures, panels, tours and workshops geared toward students, teachers, as well as the general public will be announced in the coming weeks. More information on the exhibit and related events can be found here. Society of Illustrators, 123 East 68th Street, NY, NT. Info