Congressman and activist John Lewis called on students to stand up for their beliefs and speak out against social injustice at a discussion in the Library Annex Wednesday, Feb. 18.
Lewis’ visit to campus comes after the reveal of his comic book titled “March: Book Two,” released last month and co-authored by Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell . The comic is the second in a two-part series written to inspire today’s generation to speak up when they think something is unjust and unfair.
“I want students to understand and learn how another generation of young people stood up, spoke up, spoke out and used the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence to bring about a revolution,” Congressman John Lewis said. “America is a much better place today because of brave and courageous young peoples followed their passion and that is what young people must do today.”
A civil rights activist since the 1960s, Lewis has been imprisoned 30 times for what he called “necessary trouble.” and said he probably ended up in jail an additional five times for his activism during the nonviolent protests.
Lewis spent the ’60s as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an organization that took part in fighting segregation through nonviolent acts. He said SNCC was inspired by Alfred Hasser and Benton Resnik’s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,” with themes that promote the end of segregation through peaceful demonstrations.
“The comic book had tremendous influence on me because it read about what happened in Montgomery and how it happened,” Lewis said. “Growing up I didn’t like segregation. I didn’t like racial discrimination, so the leadership that I read in the comic book inspired me to find a way and provided me a way to do something and to get involved.”
Aydin worked for the congressman’s campaign in 2008 and recalls Lewis standing up for him when co-workers laughed at his interest in comic books. Lewis told teasing Aydin that there was a comic book about Martin Luther King Jr. that greatly influenced the reason he became an activist.
The congressman’s respect for comic books spurred Aydin to ask Lewis to consider writing a comic book of his own, which he eventually agreed to do with Aydin’s help.
“At the time I just couldn’t shake the idea of how John Lewis had this powerful story of how young people can influence, change, and in fact, drive it in many ways,” Aydin said. “I was young, I didn’t know any better so I asked him. He said ‘well maybe’ and I asked again and he finally said ‘ok I’ll do it but only if you do it with me.’”
Aydin conceived the comic book idea at the end of Lewis’ campaign during the summer of 2008. The first book was published in 2013 and the second followed in January 2015. Both books describe the events that Lewis and his colleagues took part in such as the peaceful sit-ins, the freedom rides and the March on Washington.
“I want them to learn about what we did,” Lewis said. “I want them to be inspired that when they see something that is not right, not fair, not just they stand up and speak out and try to do something about it. Today in America, too many people are too quiet. We cannot afford to be quiet.”