When sharing revolutionary stories from history, the telling often stops with the victory. Run, by the late Representative John Lewis, does not. It is 1965, the Voting Rights Act has been signed into federal law, and the organizers of the Civil Rights Movement begin to navigate the next steps.
Run, Book One is the first volume in a sequel series to the acclaimed graphic novel memoir series, March. Both series share the history of the civil rights movement through the memories of John Lewis, written in collaboration with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by L. Fury and Nate Powell. The March series ended with the signing of the Voting Rights Act, and Run explores the changing philosophies of civil rights activists and continued voter suppression in the following 2 years.
Run was published posthumously. Representative John Lewis passed during the summer of 2020, however, he worked diligently with Aydin, Fury and Powell in the years preceding his death to tell this story. They conducted extensive research through interviews, newspapers, photographs, and primary source documents, to tell this story to the best of their ability, while still staying true to the memories of John Lewis.
While the March trilogy focused on the extensive organizational needs of the powerful civil rights movement. Run tells the next part of the story. Under the shadow of the Watt’s rebellion and turmoil about the Vietnam war, the activists in the Civil Rights movement, struggle to find consensus among diverging philosophies. Voting rights have been secured by federal law, but the fight for equal rights is far from over. And to complicate matters, America has instituted the draft to fight for “freedoms” in Vietnam. A move that feels hypocritical and disingenuous to the civil rights activists who are still desperately fighting for freedoms at home. John Lewis and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) connect the struggle in Vietnam to a larger struggle of oppressed people across the world. Their stance about the war is denounced by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Urban League.
Ideologies and philosophies start to collide behind the scenes. Rifts that began before Selma and the Voting Right Act, start to take center stage, especially between Lewis and Stokey Carmichael, who follows Lewis as the chairman for SNCC. Black activists angry with the lack of progress, start to question the dedication to nonviolent action. Lewis struggles to find his place in the evolving movement.
Run is still honest about the hard work of organizers, giving credit to many individuals behind the scenes making change. The back matter also includes an extensive list with brief biographies of the many activists mentioned in the story.
The story is just as compelling as their work in March, in part thanks to the illustrations of Fury and Powell. In the “From the Artists” note in the back matter, they discuss the difficult path of navigating emotion, horror, and historic truths through illustration. They used many photos from the events as reference for their illustrations. They also researched fashion of different generations in the mid-60s, the cars made in the 50s and 60s that might be on the roads, and even studied the shape and style of road signs. This extensive focus on accuracy paired with deep shadows and explosions of ink in moments of great emotion and violence, adjusting text and font based on the message and form of speech or song, and creative use of panes made for a compelling read.
Run, Book One is essentially a story about the inner workings of civil rights organizations and the ways outside events and movements sent ripples through the activists. It tells an incredibly important story that is often forgotten or overlooked. I highly recommend the book for any young adult or adult graphic novel collection, and look forward to the rest of the series.
Run, Book One Vol. 1
By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Art by L. Fury, Nate Powell
Publisher Age Rating: 13 and up
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Black, Character Representation: Black,