Let Freedom Ring: Unit 4 Assignment 2 by Alec Stimac

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.

Aretha Franklin at President Obama’s Inauguration

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.

America {My Country, ‘Tis of Thee) Sheet Music

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