Q&A with Rep. John Lewis on his graphic memoir ‘March: Book One’

Bill de Blasio and Michael Bloomberg meet the day after the election.
Bill de Blasio and Michael Bloomberg meet the day after the election. Photo Credit: Handout Handout/ Joaquin Simo

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) has a story far more heroic than any costumed superhero you’d find in a graphic novel.

The Congressman, the last living speaker from the 1963 March on Washington, tells his story in the Civil Rights movement in the graphic novel “March: Book One,” co-written with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell.

amNewYork chatted with Rep. Lewis about the book, which he’ll be discussing at Midtown Comics Downtown Thursday.

Why did you decide to tell your story as a graphic novel?

I wanted to teach a new generation about our history, about how far we’ve come as a nation and as a people, as well as to show them the power and potential of nonviolence. … We cannot be afraid to be creative. I remember a comic book called “Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story” that helped inspire me and many others to get involved in the ’50s and the ’60s. Now I want to inspire a new generation to get involved.

What do you hope readers take from your story?

I hope readers understand that America is a very different place than it was 50 or 60 years ago. I hope they understand that this happened because of the hard work of … thousands of [people] who wanted America to be a better place. They were willing to fight, to speak up and speak out. A lot of people were hurt. I gave a little blood. Some even gave their very lives. Change does not come easily. To move our country forward requires commitment. You have to keep pushing and keep pulling, not just for a day or a month or a year, but for a lifetime.

What do you see as the current goals for the Civil Rights movement?

I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but we’re not there yet. Each generation has a choice to make about what they believe is worth fighting for. I am optimistic, but there are a great many challenges that face our society. We have to be willing to get out and make some noise, to move our feet, to march, to get closer to a truly democratic society — what Dr. King called “the beloved community.”

What role, if any, did New York City play in your personal story?

During the movement, much of the financial and moral support came from New York City. I participated in the first meeting to discuss the planning of the March on Washington, which happened in New York at the Roosevelt Hotel. Also, two of the civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi in 1964, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were from New York City.

Did you have any requests for Nate when you saw his drawings of you? Were you pleased with the way you looked?

Well, you know, most of this book is about when I was a few pounds lighter, and had all my hair. … Nate did a wonderful job. He really managed to capture the essence of what was happening — the passion and the drama. Reading through the book, you can feel everything come to life. He makes it so real.

If you go: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell will be signing copies of “March: Book One” at Midtown Comics Downtown Thursday night at 6, FREE, 64 Fulton St., 212- 302-8192