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.
Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells were both black activists, writers, and reformers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Researching their religious backgrounds was difficult, however, Wells is confirmed to be baptized in the Methodist Church. Both the daughters of slaves immediately before emancipation and the Reconstruction period, Terrell and Wells were educated and affluent, becoming successful, earning their label today as part of the “black elite.” Having this privilege, these women used their abilities and opportunities to speak out and fight racial discrimination and violence. In particular, Terrell brought attention to the suffrage movement, emphasizing the importance of allowing black women to vote, and Wells researched and wrote about the unjust practice of lynching in the South.
Mary Church Terrell focused her solution on “racial uplift.” This is the concept that blacks must take advantage of opportunities to advance themselves through education, work, and activism. If one black person becomes successful, this helps to elevate the race as a whole. This concept however, is based on the idea that all blacks have equal opportunities as whites, which aligns with Terrell’s background, as she took advantage of opportunities, received an education, and advanced past her parent’s lives to become successful.
To expose the corrupt punishment of lynching, Ida B. Wells researched and wrote reports, creating solutions to this racial violence. Wells believed that lynching was practiced not to ensure punishment for criminals, but to enforce “economic subordination” on blacks. In her research, she found that lynching was often justified by the myth of black men raping white women. However, this was not usually the case, but instead it was a way to protect white economic power during the Reconstruction period. To combat this practice and ensure black economic advancement, Wells “encouraged black residents… to leave, taking with them their labor and capital.”
Peebles-Wilkins, Wilma, and E. Aracelis Francis. “Two Outstanding Black Women in Social Welfare History: Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells-Barnett.” Affilia5, no. 4 (December 1, 1990): 87–100. https://doi.org/10.1177/088610999000500406.
National Women’s History Museum. “Mary Church Terrell.” Accessed November 17, 2019. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mary-church-terrell.
Ugarte, Rodrigo. “Ida B. Wells and the Economics of Racial Violence.” Items(blog). Accessed November 17, 2019. https://items.ssrc.org/reading-racial-conflict/ida-b-wells-and-the-economics-of-racial-violence/.
Center for the Study of Southern Culture. “On Violence in the South: Ida B. Wells-Barnett,” July 11, 2016. https://southernstudies.olemiss.edu/on-violence-in-the-south-ida-b-wells-barnett/.
These two texts both discuss the act of looking at suffering. However, Sontag’s text is more general, with a focus on photography, while Gourevitch’s text is written within the specific context of the Rwandan Genocide. The assigned readings from the two texts connect around the witnessing of tragedy and the implied distance in observation. Sontag argues that photos have an innate distance in nature and that while they may “seek our gaze” with “terrible distinctness”, ultimately, the viewer can never accurately understand the depicted tragedy (63, 135). Gourevitch argues a similar idea, describing the disconnect and lack of action between the broadcasted images of the genocide and the viewers watching from other countries. The perception of the Rwandan Genocide from outsiders was inaccurate. There was confusion as to who was the victim and the murderers and even whether to even classify the conflict as a genocide. This disconnect between image and viewer from Sontag’s text is a similar reasoning for the lack of action in response to the Rwandan Genocide that Gourevitch reported on.
In chapter one of Regarding the Pain of Others, by Susan Sontag, she talks about the way that we have many different interpretations of the photos that convey many mixed emotions but in the end, lead to actions. Sontag argues against the study of images of suffering to prevent similar outcomes. She disagrees because she sees the possibility of different outlooks of the photos such the example of how an Israeli Jew sees a photograph of a child torn apart in the attack on the Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem and a Palestinian sees a photo of a child torn apart by a tank round in Gaza (Palestinian child killed by Israeli ordnance) (Sontag 10). She even goes on to say that war is nonspecific and that even photos such as “The Face of War” and “Les Gueules Cassees” can not prevent war (Sontag 15-16). ]
Sentence: Photos themselves have power in which people give them, similar, or even different.
In chapter six, Sontag talks about our urges and curiosity that we have for gruesome images and what it means. Sontag expresses that after people see a picture of suffering, we become distant from it. She also talks about how there is this somewhat sexual nature behind a dismembered body. She expresses our desire to gaze and how, in actuality, it is a form of pleasure. This pleasure is called the love of cruelty and that we enjoy seeing pain being put on others.
Sentence: Humans have an innate desire to look at photos as an urge or curiosity and even sexual.
In chapter eight, Sontag expresses that there is a positive side of gaining knowledge of disparity, but it is how we react that is important if we do the act of remembering or just a memory. She explains that remembering something is active and continuously at movement that it takes effort. While memory is something that is still, and that it is our job to not forget about the memories, memory is what needs to be remembered. She also talks about how we must analyze these photos for the gaining of knowledge and not frustration. The reaction of anger causes us to have a very immature point of view from the picture, yet to gain understanding, you have to put your emotions aside and critically analyze the pureness of the photo.
Sentence: The atrocities of humans must be remembered if and only if it is commemorated with critical analysis.
Born 1906 in Germany, died 1944 in New York
Political scientist and philosopher
Born in Germany, moved to Paris, fled to the United States
The Origins of Totalitarianism
Written by Arendt (published 1951)
Analyzes Nazi/Stalinist regimes and works to understand the causes of totalitarianism
Totalitarianism definition: a form of government that limits individual freedoms and gives power/authority to the state
Arendt’s definition of totalitarianism: the “outcome of disintegration of the traditional nation-state”
“Banality of Evil”
Can be understood as “insight into the commonplace motives of perpetrators of evil”
Revolutionary idea: individual humans responsible for acts of evil are “mundane”, not “demonic”
However, Arendt is not trying to understate the tragedy of the Holocaust
Eichmann in Jerusalem
Report published in 1963 by Arendt
1961- attends trial of Eichman as a reporter working for The New Yorker https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arendt/
Critics thought that Arendt’s report on Eichmann was too lenient
Nazi war criminal
Organized/led deportation of Jews to be killed at concentration camps
Trial was in Israel. Found guilty in 1961.
Hanged in 1962