Graphic novel teaching history at Leflore schools

November 20, 2014
DAVID MONROE

GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) - Leflore County High School is using a graphic novel based on the life of U.S. Rep. John Lewis to help teach civil rights history.

The school received a donation of more than 500 copies of “March: Book One” from the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit organization. The book, co-written by Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, is the first volume in a planned trilogy.

“March” describes Lewis’ early years in the civil rights movement, including his involvement as a Freedom Rider and his work with the Rev. Martin Luther King.

American history is taught to juniors at Leflore County High, but the graphic novel also will be used by students as young as seventh grade, Assistant Principal Michelle Armstrong said.

Armstrong said the book is both student-friendly and informative. Civil rights history is one required component of the state curriculum.

Sid Scott, communications director for the Mississippi Center for Justice, said the chance to use the book was “a tremendous blessing” and a way to educate students about Lewis’ life and Mississippi history.
 
"We think the graphic novel is vividly written and drawn and really gives a true, palpable sense of what it was like to be there,” he said.

Lewis spoke at the Champions of Justice dinner, an annual fall event held by the Center for Justice. Free copies of the book were given out to adults at that event, and they knew it would be useful to students, too, Scott said.

“We just got (the books) out as soon as we could after the dinner, and we’re really pleased at how fast they got out, actually,” he said.

A total of 4,000 copies have been donated to eight Mississippi schools, as well as the Floyd & Betsy Johnson Foundation in Washington County and the Sunflower County Youth Court. Schools in the Jackson district also will receive copies, although details about that distribution were still being worked out last week, Scott said.

Schools have discretion in which students will use the book, Scott said.

“We certainly encourage middle through high school children to have an opportunity to look at the graphic novel. It really is stirring and inspiring,” he said. “There’s new information for anyone except for the most knowledgeable civil rights historian.”

According to Lewis, the second volume will be out sometime in 2015, Scott said.