Kate’s Review: “Run: Book 1”

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Book: “Run: Book One” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Ill.), & L. Fury (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Abrams ComicsArts, August 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: First you march, then you run. From the #1 bestselling, award–winning team behind March comes the first book in their new, groundbreaking graphic novel series, Run: Book One

“In sharing my story, it is my hope that a new generation will be inspired by Run to actively participate in the democratic process and help build a more perfect Union here in America.” –Congressman John Lewis

The sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel series March—the continuation of the life story of John Lewis and the struggles seen across the United States after the Selma voting rights campaign.

To John Lewis, the civil rights movement came to an end with the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. But that was after more than five years as one of the preeminent figures of the movement, leading sit–in protests and fighting segregation on interstate busways as an original Freedom Rider. It was after becoming chairman of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and being the youngest speaker at the March on Washington. It was after helping organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer and the ensuing delegate challenge at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. And after coleading the march from Selma to Montgomery on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” All too often, the depiction of history ends with a great victory. But John Lewis knew that victories are just the beginning. In Run: Book One, John Lewis and longtime collaborator Andrew Aydin reteam with Nate Powell—the award–winning illustrator of the March trilogy—and are joined by L. Fury—making an astonishing graphic novel debut—to tell this often overlooked chapter of civil rights history.

Review: In 2020, we lost John Lewis, who passed away that summer after a fight with cancer. I remember being so saddened by this, as he was such an amazing man who helped change our country for the better. It wasn’t until the next year that I found out that before his death he had continued his graphic novel endeavors after “March”. “Run: Book One” is the continuation of Lewis’s work as a social justice advocate, as well as a history lesson on what happened directly after the Civil Rights Act was put in place, both in terms of the backlash from white people who were against it, as well as people within the movement who thought it didn’t go far enough.

“Run: Book One” picks up shortly after the passing of the Civil Rights Act that ended the “March” Trilogy. While in American history class it’s tempting to end the story there, with a great success and a fantastic development in social justice and civil liberties, things didn’t just magically get better. Lewis lays out some of the events that happened right after, such as Black people still being assaulted and murdered by police and white people, the race riots in Watts, and the mass anger on behalf of white supremacy that saw a doubling down on racist leaders and hate groups. It’s framed in such a way that one can’t help but draw comparisons to some of the similar events that have happened in the past couple of years, let alone half a century ago, and it feels deliberate on the part of Lewis. He also dives more into the systemic issues that were stoking a lot of the injustices towards Black people at the time, specifically the Vietnam War and how so many Black men were being sent to fight in an unjust war and were dying for a cause that was rooted in Imperialism. He looks at how he and other Civil Rights leaders agreed or disagreed on how to approach the war and the draft, and how foreign policy was directly connected to the Civil Rights Movement that was still going on even after the Civil Rights Act. There is also the matter of the mass voter suppression of Black people in the wake of the Civil Rights Act being passed, which is just a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and that’s disgraceful. The direct mirroring of that moment then and the moment we are finding ourselves in right now is stark.

But what was even more interesting to me (and something I admittedly knew very little about) was how John Lewis addresses the strife and splintering of people within the Movement itself, and how that changed his role within. Again, I feel like in history class we are told about SNCC in the context of the sit ins and other nonviolent actions, as well as John Lewis’s role. Because of that, I had NO idea that he was effectively forced out of power by Stokely Carmichael and other members who were beginning to feel that SNCC wasn’t doing enough to combat injustice. Lewis talks about this in a way that never really comes off as bitter or angry, but more saddened as to how everything turned out. I definitely don’t think that I can comment too much upon different approaches to achieving social justice goals by these two ideologies, and Lewis comes off as very careful not to denigrate those who cast him out. He also begins to set up his eventual successful stint as a Congressman, devoting arcs to Julian Bond and Marion Barry, who broke ground as Black government officials right in the thick of the backlash.

And when it comes to the art, L. Fury is now a part of the team, as Nate Powell takes a bit of a back seat but does give input (at least that’s what some research told me). Fury’s style blends enough with the style of the original style of “March” that it feels like a good successor, with black and white aesthetics and similar designs.

I’m not sure if there will be more “Run” books, as Lewis passed in 2020. There is a note at the beginning of this saying that the script was finished before his death, but I don’t know if that means the entire script, or just for “Book One”. Regardless, “Run” is a fantastic follow up that is an important reminder that with great strides and success comes resistance to change, and that you just have to keep going and doing what you believe in. Add this to the collection with “March”, for sure.

Rating 9: A powerful new memoir from John Lewis that reminds us that stories don’t always end with triumphs, “Run” is a must read continuation of the fight for civil rights and against white supremacy in America.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Run: Book One” is included on the Goodreads lists “Graphic Novels About Black Lives”, and “Teaching African American History After Obama”.

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