Written by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
Illustrated by Nate Powell
It’s so easy to see why this volume has won so many awards and gotten so much attention. Packed with emotion and written by one who was there, it never steps outside of John Lewis’ experience and always speaks to how he felt at the time. It’s written in a way that draws in even the most reluctant reader.
By September of 1963, John Lewis was coordinating the efforts by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register blacks to vote in Mississippi and Alabama. As a student, he’d spent prior years with the Freedom Riders just trying to gain the right to ride public transportation and eat and sleep as a regular citizen. When the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was bombed in 1963, killing four young girls, even more people were inspired to register. Time after time, long lines waited while the clerks and police devised more ways to deny them the right. No lines on the sidewalk. Only four in the courthouse. Impossible literacy tests. They fought an uphill battle against the FBI, an uncaring Washington, and those within the movement who would respond with violence, but fight they did. They even fought the Democratic Party, who refused to recognize the delegation from the Freedom Democratic Party, led by Fannie Lou Hamer, at their convention. Eventually, after many years of beatings and other violence, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law. And, of course, John Lewis went on to become a Congressman and to see an African-American President.
It’s so difficult to underestimate the importance of this book. It’s a must read.