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.