A Graphic History of the Civil Rights Movement

graphic-history-civil-rights-front-cover

A Graphic History of the Civil Rights Movement is comprised of six compact and informative graphic novels about the people and events that shaped the civil rights movement in the United States over two centuries. The series includes familiar names and faces like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, as well as lesser-known events and personalities, such as Medgar Evers’ involvement with the NAACP and Thurgood Marshall’s impact on the Supreme Court. Though each volume has fewer than 24 pages, they are filled with dynamic comic panels, photographs, glossaries, and indices, making this an excellent series of high-value educational comics.

As the sole writer of the series, Gary Jeffrey balances explanatory narrative and dialogue to accompany the images, whose illustrators differ by volume. It is extremely difficult to distill complex and controversial events, such as the Brown v. Board of Education case, into a few pages of comics. Jeffrey builds an engaging story that explains why and how “Separate But Equal” became law and was subsequently overturned. He presents summaries of case arguments but also emphasizes a particular aspect of the case’s testimony, providing readers with enough depth to grasp significant highlights. Many of the books in the series follow a similar pattern, offering a fast-paced summary of events alongside a featured fact or facet of the case. In Thurgood Marshall: The Supreme Court Rules on ‘Separate but Equal, the writer and artist masterfully highlight one incident—the use of identical dolls to demonstrate harmful perceptions in children— to capture the emotions and stakes involved. Their symbolism of innocence provides a dramatic conclusion to the final arguments before the judges announce their verdict.

There are not enough noticeable stylistic differences between the volumes’ artists to merit comment; their uniformity could be a deliberate attempt to avoid distraction from the series’ educational mission. That said, in Medgar Evers and the NAACP, artist, Nick Spender, does an excellent job filling the panels with color and action to support the storyline and engage readers until its tense ending. Nana Li, artist for The Little Rock Nine and the Fight for Equal Education, has a knack for using simple lines and a crisp, pleasing style in her depictions. All the artists in the series are quite capable, using the comics medium to sustain narrative in an educational setting.

Each book provides insight into the individuals who affected and were affected by the civil rights movement, illuminating inner thoughts and motivations, depicting hardships and changes endured. A Graphic History of the Civil Rights Movement is a comprehensive, accessible primer that students will be able to navigate and synthesize in their class work or use as a foundation for further study, perhaps before reading John Lewis’ excellent first-hand account, March: Book One.

A Graphic History of the Civil Rights Movement

Malcolm X and the Fight for African American Unity
By Gary Jeffrey
Art by Emanuele Boccanfuso
ISBN: 9781433974878

Thurgood Marshall: The Supreme Court Rules on “Separate but Equal”
By Gary Jeffrey
Art by John Aggs
ISBN 978-1-4339-7503-5

The Little Rock Nine and the Fight for Equal Education
By Gary Jeffrey
Art by Nana Li
ISBN: 978-1-4339-7483-0

Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington
By Gary Jeffrey
Art by Nick Spender
ISBN: 978-1-4339-7491-5

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
By Gary Jeffrey
Art by Nick Spender
ISBN 978-1-4339-7499-1

Gareth Steven Publishing, 2013
Publisher Age Rating:

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