I found this image (on page 135) to be incredibly striking. There is something in its intentional simplicity, as well as its emphasis on innocence in the foreground in tandem with and almost despite the chaotic background, that drew my attention. After taking several minutes to analyze why this depiction in particular caught my attention, I discovered a few reasons.
First, the depiction of a child juxtaposed against a large, white officer, symbolizes the systems which uphold white privilege. Everything- from the officer’s sheer size, to his position looking down on the young girl, to his narrowed eyes, and the gun on his belt- serves to symbolize the dominance and privilege that both his occupation and his skin color affords him. Furthermore, his role in punishing the children represents the white Americans who chose to use their agency and privilege to ignore and punish black Americans instead of assisting them in their fight.
Second, the dark clouds and unending line of children filing into a police car emphasize how disturbing it is that such a basic demand- to be treated as human and afforded the basic rights that humans deserve, “F’eedom”- could be received with such outrage and violence by white Americans and the American government.
Lastly, the image stretches to each corner of the page, with the attention being drawn directly to the scene between the child and the officer, which seems to represent not only how significant the exchange is, but also how the image is unfortunately one that has become evergreen. This image is not one that is unfamiliar to me; rather, it is one that has appeared over and over again in the media. When I first viewed the image, it immediately reminded me of the second image I have posted above, which depicts a woman, Ieshia Evans, boldly facing two white police officers in silence during a Black Lives Matter in Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, the most haunting message of this image is one that reoccurs many times throughout the novel: what was started by the Civil Rights Movement is nowhere near finished. Though these images look different now and occur in different contexts, the struggle to be recognized as equal has remained relevant for over 150 years.
This spread intrigued me the first time I read it. It depicts the inauguration of George Wallace, arguably one of the most racist people to ever be elected to a public office. I think the images do a good job of showing the intensity and the anger of Wallace. The bottom left panel especially shows the nature of the man, and he does not look very nice. I also think the images of the crowd effectively show who would probably be at the inauguration of such a hateful, racist man. The crowd is a sea of white, with no women or minorities visible, and a few confederate flags. Despite being almost 100 years after the Civil War, there is a confederate flag, which to me is a pretty racist symbol and one that should not be proudly waved, in every panel except the bottom left. The Alabama state flag also has a pretty strong resemblance to the confederate flag, which I think is an interesting connection.
The spread is laid out in a very logic order, clearly trying to highlight the crowd as well as Wallace. The gutters are all very little, which to me signifies a very brief passage of time in between panels, which would be accurate with the steady flow of a speech. I think the most effective part of the layout is how the speech bubbles are connected, really making the eye flow through the page. With the use of the speech bubbles, Lewis is also able to add a narrator and there is no confusion between the two. I think the text and the images match up well, especially the third box where he talks about the “greatest people that have ever trod this earth” and the crowd is completely white men. Wallace was not shy about his viewpoints, and he clearly was looking at the people he had in mind with this line. I also think the angry look on Wallace’s face in the bottom left panel shows how he feels about blacks, that segregation is a necessity.
March, pg. 80-82
In John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell’s graphic history, “March” (Book II), some of the most pivotal moments of the Civil Rights Movement are captured through shocking images and intricate selections of real dialogue. Out of the many panels I found to be extremely moving, one large panel in the middle of the book stuck an accord with me as I continued to read the novel: Aretha Franklin singing “America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee)” at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration on January 20th, 2009. The main frame is Franklin singing her heart out to a song that has been known to emulate American values and history. Smaller frames are scattered throughout the page to show pieces of past stories during the violent breakout in Montgomery, Alabama. The Freedom Riders, who risked their lives in pursuit of liberty, contrast Franklin’s call to “Let Freedom Ring.” The history of our nation lies in pain, struggle, and perseverance through blood, sweat, and tears. Obama’s presidency was a new light in terms of American history, with him being the first African-American president to be in office. This song is not only referring to a past time of trivial acts but also aiding in brining in the new contemporary era people were positively optimistic about. Additionally, the use of the repetition of the lyrics with big text size highlights the importance of the song on that day and throughout history, as it blends together the two different time periods of this social rights movement.
The final page of the continued panel is of a hand throwing a weapon (smoke/fire bomb) at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery with the last lyric of “oh let freedom ring” written across the page. The utilization of a black background instead of a white background not only to shows how the setting turned to a dreary night, forming the mood, but also to transition towards the violence that ensued from the calmer times of today.
The transition between these three pages struck me because I never realized how this song has represented America and how the meaning of the lyrics have changed over time. Today, it represents the freedom citizens have in this country, but before it connected and divide certain people together and apart (possibly also being a rally cry) about who qualifies as having liberty and being human. I have always been fascinated with music and its power it has had on individual people, communities, and nations. The words are strong, and the way it was delivered was even stronger – I can almost hear Franklin singing the words off the page. It was a beautiful use of a transition with much power left up to the simple lyrics of a classic song.
Page 47 describes the scene of chaos that ensued in the Nashville headquarters where John Lewis was located while waiting to rejoin the freedom riders, when reports surfaced that his bus had been firebombed. The pictorial description illustrates the discord of the situation and the tense atmosphere through the inclusion of crowded, overlapping speech bubbles with varying levels of legible font. On page 46, prior to hearing this news on the radio, the illustrator paints an idyllic scene with students lounging on a hill and listening to music, but the “breaking news bulletin” projected from the radio shatters this tranquil scene. The speech bubble from the radio is jagged, and motion lines emanate from the radio, which is a physical manifestation of the shock the news had on its listeners. On page 47, some of the radio’s speech bubbles are obscured by other panels, illustrating how the activists in Nashville were only receiving fragments of information, contributing to the mounting sense of anxiety and panic.
Additionally, speech bubbles from individuals in the room making phone calls in hopes of gleaning more information about the situation crowd each panel, overwhelming the reader. This stylistic choice elicits the frenzy of activity in the room. The illustrator also does a great job of drawing emotive facial expressions, and I found that the second picture down on the far right in particular captures the fear John Lewis must have felt for his friends and colleagues in this moment. The speech bubble of the woman shouting “hey!” in the background also implies that the men are so captivated by the radio broadcast that they are oblivious to their surroundings.
I believe that this graphic interpretation of the situation was more effective at capturing the chaos of the moment than traditional text. If I were reading the text on a page, even if the author had denoted that the speakers were interrupting each other with dashes, or emphasized the urgency by using capital letters, the text would be linear and neat, which contrasts the disarray the author is trying to convey. With a graphic novel, the illustrator could physically overlap text bubbles and write dialogue with more freedom which makes the scene feel more authentic and three-dimensional, like watching a movie. I found the illustrated version particularly moving because the vivid imagery forced me to picture myself in a position where people I care about are in danger and I have no information about their condition.
The symbolism on page 135 of John Lewis’ March: Book 2 conveys the culture of domineering and repressive police force in America. Page 135 depicts the youth strike in Birmingham that was met with violent attacks by police using water hoses and dogs. A little girl is seen holding a picket sign and talking to an officer. He asks her what she wants. She responds, “f’eedom.” She is so young that she cannot even pronounce freedom correctly, yet she is marching for her life. The officer has a confused, aggravated look on his face, while the girl is direct and powerful. The facial expressions of the two subjects show the purpose behind their respective groups. The actions and beliefs of whites in the south at this time were absurd. The officer’s face symbolizes the confused, unnecessary, and unreasonable state of white people at this time in the midst of the Jim Crow era. He also bears a confederate flag on his sleeve which symbolizes the prolonged connection between law in the south and the confederacy. The girl’s face symbolizes the opposite. She represents the persistence and faithfulness of the Civil Rights Movement.
In the background, a police officer towers over black children as he directs them towards a van. The juxtaposition of the officer and the children epitomizes the contrast between southern white values and the Civil Rights Movement. The officer’s face is sorrowful, but it is likely that he isn’t sorry for the kids. He is mourning the death of Jim Crow not the arrest of children.
What strikes me the most is in the sky. The clouds are parting and light is shining through. I interpret this as the presence of God with the children. The Civil Rights Movement relied heavily on religion and the faithfulness of African-Americans. Figures like Martin Luther King Jr. used religion as grounds for peaceful protest. The parting of the clouds symbolizes God’s grace over the protestors and His protection of the prosecuted.
This image represents the moments following the Freedom Riders’ arrival 5 miles outside of Montgomery, Alabama on May 20th, 1961. Remnants from the battle lie on the street outside of the Greyhound bus station, and this brutal outcome is juxtaposed with text overlay reading “MY COUNTRY, ‘TIS OF THEE.” The masses on the ground look like dead people. Readers are accustomed to seeing violence in this book, so this assumption is easy to make. The masses could very well be people, and I think that this was a strategic move by the illustrator to stress how whites saw the Freedom Riders as inhuman, comparable to nonliving, material things. This text is strategically placed, stretching along the road, portraying the black man’s long journey to justice and freedom. The image, unlike the majority of images in the book, is not confined to borders. It serves as more of a backdrop that represents the outcome of the events occurring in the images confined to borders. There is not much movement or action in this image, creating an atmosphere of hopelessness and defeat. This image stresses the absurdity of the current state of affairs in the United States. Though the US had placed freedom and democracy at the center of its founding documents, this obviously was not being executed. This is stressed by the juxtaposition of the wreckage from the violence imposed upon the black people and the text overlay that dubs the United States as the “Sweet land of liberty” in the next line of the song. Though I had always known that the authors of the law were the ones breaking the law, this image emphasizes the phenomenon’s absurdity. The very violation of the laws that gifted liberty and justice to all citizens were the way that things were supposed to go. Why is the fight necessary? The white man does not need any new legislation or Supreme Court decisions in order to have freedom because he was promised these things when the country was founded. Why does the black man need legislation when he was promised these same things?
This page is a series of panels depicting a movie theater in 1961 Nashville refusing tickets to African-American customers. Showing the black protestors patiently standing in line during a snowstorm waiting their turn to ask for a ticket and then re-entering the back of the queue communicates the nonviolence and dedication associated with the “stand-ins”(17) aspect of the Freedom Movement. Additionally, Lewis shows the comments and thoughts of white patrons by including a speech bubble of a white man saying “can you believe this?”(17) to his wife. This speech is also in a different font from the rest of the text, adding to the emphasis of these words. Clearly, the white patrons grew impatient and aggravated by this disturbance. Since they are not used to waiting in frigid temperatures and being refused service, this drawing expresses the white community’s ambivalence toward the Civil Rights cause and demonstrates their privilege as they selfishly wanted the black protestors to leave for their own benefit. Additionally, the movie playing was a screening of the Ten Commandments. This inclusion is particularly ironic because the Ten Commandments were written as a reminder to treat all human beings with respect and encourages people to live peaceful and productive lives. Even though this is the message of the movie the white customers are wanting to see, it is clear they will ignore this theme and continue unfair discrimination against their African-American equals. Lewis most likely includes the speech bubble mentioning the Ten Commandments in the center of the page to draw attention to this inconsistency of thought. By drawing three white men skipping giddily in a circle chanting “Hup two three four”(17) outside the ticket office, Lewis is showing the cycle of segregation perpetuated by unaffected white bystanders who seem to be mocking the protests with their cheers. This series of panels stirs frustration among readers and sympathy for the activists waiting in the cold and receiving blatant disrespect.
This panel helps to portray a more accurate vision of the March on Washington because it accounts for the events from a different perspective than it is usually recounted from. Usually, we associate the March on Washington with only Martin Luther King Jr. and the “I Have a Dream” speech, but here, Lewis allows the audience to see it from his perspective, as another activist who gave a speech and participated in the movement. This series of panels helps illustrate the effects of the march and how it was able to influence a large amount of people in the United States. This series of panels influences me because it shows the magnitude of the different events of the civil rights movement. It also serves to humanize Lewis and show how even these heros were just regular people who managed to do amazing things. One of the interesting graphic techniques that is employed is the use of three different perspectives in each of the different panels. The first panel depicts a broader third person perspective, which presents John Lewis going up to speak during the march on washington. This particular panel is the only one that uses the normal speech bubbles. Another interesting aspect of this panel is how the figures behind John Lewis are blurred out and indistinct, thus putting the focus on himself before going to speak. Here, there is a clear contrast between black, white, and gray, which makes the three individuals standout. The second panel is from the first person perspective, which helps the audience see from Lewis’s perspective. This panel was intriguing to me because it helped humanize lewis. As a person who has studied the march on washington, this helps to lessen the idealization of those who spoke. By showing the text of his speech and the microphone in front of him, this highlights how he was just a normal person just like those he is trying to reach out to. The last panel is also from the observers’ perspective, but it focuses on Lewis’s eyes, which show his inner anguish and pain at the horrific violence against leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. Also, an aesthetic aspect that stands out in this third panel is the man in the background with an NAACP cap on.
On May 2, 1963, an organized protest took place in Birmingham, Alabama. However, this nonviolent march was unlike the civil rights protests that had preceded it, and instead, it was predominantly made up of children. The book, March Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell uses graphic “rhetoric” to convey this event. The full page illustration on page 135 is particularly impactful due to its intentionally designed size, characters, and speech balloons.
The most obvious yet effective strategy used in this illustration is its size. The drawing takes up an entire page of the book. This allows for the reader to pay closer attention to the details of the image, and spend more time absorbing the image’s information. Smaller panels in a graphic novel create a faster pace for the reader and often imply movement. This large illustration creates a stillness and pause that fully impacts the reader.
The two main figures of the illustration are clearly separated from the background. Because of their darkness in shading, this contrast brings the figures forward on the page. The reader sees a young black girl and an adult white police officer. What is most striking to me about these characters is their body language and physical stances. The young girl is standing upright, with her shoulders back and head lifted. This expresses power and strength. The police officer is lowered onto his knee to become closer to the girl’s height. Usually, criminals are met with intimidation by the police, yet here, the officer has lowered himself. The officer recognizes that this is just a child, even so, he will arrest her, due to the racism that the police upheld at this time.
The text in this illustration is also effective. The conversation between the officer and girl is short, emphasizing the innocence of the girl and the simplicity of her demands. The final statement at the bottom of the page reads, “It was an embarrassment to the city.” Because this sentence is at the bottom of the page, it naturally forces the reader to look at the conversational speech bubbles and the characters before reading this line. Bolding the word “embarrassment” emphasizes this word and the madness of the police forces’ actions. The final line summarizes the illustration, convincing the reader of the racism and injustice within the police force in Alabama.
Page 50 displays a portion of a phone call in which Diane Nash confronts James Farmer in hopes of gaining his support to continue the Freedom Ride, despite the fact that it was met with immense violence in Alabama. Farmer points out that continuing the Freedom Ride “may be suicide” and that the riders “could be massacred.” While Nash acknowledges the risk of continuing the movement, she states that “We can’t let them stop us with violence… if we do the movement is dead.”
At the top of page 50, Nash demonstrates a stern look of determination as she stares out of her window. In the center of the page, the picture moves outward from Nash’s window. She appears as a silhouette and the viewer can no longer see her face. Although her identity is no longer apparent to the viewer, the newfound aspect of anonymity enhances the power of the graphic’s message. This accentuates the significant impact of seemingly mundane moments on the progression of the Civil Rights movement. Individually, such moments are hardly noticeable and altogether ordinary, yet collectively they are profound, possessing the power to alter the course of history. The individuals in the Civil Rights movement who refused to give up the fight had a substantial impact on the progression of African Americans societal standing. Even though their names may not be remembered today, their impact resonates loudly and eternally. The collective voice of these individuals who persevered and stood up against oppression is symbolized at the bottom of the page with the loudspeakers. The loudspeakers provide a transition from the scene with Diane Nash into the future with Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, foreshadowing the profound influence of people such as Nash on the progression of Civil Rights. Page 51 depicts the author, congressman John Lewis congratulating Obama on his election, illuminating the vast social progress that African Americans have achieved. However, Obama’s phrase, “I need your prayers,” expresses that there is still work to be done in the fight to eradicate racial inequality.
These pages stood out to me when reading through March: Book Two due to the fact that they exemplified the profound impact of each individual who contributed to the Civil Rights movement through civil obedience and combattal of oppression. The graphic did an excellent job conveying the importance of sacrificing for equality in order to espouse change and hope for future generations.
Pages 120 and 121 within John Lewis’ March 2 depict a SNCC protest at a segregated swimming pool in Cairo, Illinois in 1962, and a subsequent hit and run involving a young African American girl. The left side uses the rule of threes, broken into three horizontal panels. Although, this format is interrupted as a small square panel of Danny Lyon, a white photographer, appears in front. Lyon’s presence in the foreground suggests that the action of the white photographer takes precedent over the protestors in the first panel. The four African American protesters in the middle panel cannot rise to the public eye with legitimacy until they are photographed through the lense of Lyon. This middle panel is also drawn in a different style than the rest of the comic, using a lighter grey tone compared to the stark black and white shown throughout. Thus, the photograph, as powerful and shareable as it may be, is dulled of the raw nature of the event. The simple “click click” of the camera cannot capture the following events portrayed on the right, likely a sentiment that Gourevitch and Sontag might comment on. Consequently, the right page does not use text narration, instead the only audible sensation is the screech of the car with a widespread use of black and white color contrast. In the first panel on the right, the driver is in shadow while the young girl is standing with her face in the light. The smoke shrowds out the crowd behind them, so that the dismal race relations of the entire city become embodied in the staredown between the cowardly man whose face is never shown and the brave young girl. Her eyes are illuminated by the headlights and her arms are open wide ready to brace the impact of pure hatred. As the following page shifts to a different time and location, the occurrence at Cairo disappears from national memory as there was not a photographer to capture it and legitimize her suffering. The girl’s lifeless body flings across the page and the vroom sound effect dissipates down the corner. These pages heightened feelings of anger I felt towards white Americans for inflicting such pain, especially as this comic creates a juxtaposition of innocence and evil, light and dark, and fear and passion.