Good Minds Suggest—Books that Influenced Congressman John LewisFebruary, 2015
Now starting his 15th term as a U.S. Representative for Georgia, Congressman John Lewis credits a comic book, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, for not only helping shape his fundamental belief in nonviolence at an early age, but also inspiring his choice to tell his life story in graphic form. Two graphic memoirs of a planned trilogy are now available, coauthored by Andrew Aydin with art by Nate Powell. March: Book One and March: Book Two together describe Congressman Lewis's remarkable path, from his childhood in segregated Alabama to his activism as one of the Freedom Riders to his leadership in the Civil Rights movement. The account culminates in Book Two, with how he helped plan the 1963 March on Washington at age 23 and served as one of the keynote speakers who addressed the same historic crowd that heard Martin Luther King Jr. declare, "I have a dream." Today he is the only living member of the "Big Six," the leaders of the civil rights organizations that organized the march. Here Congressman Lewis recommends five books that have shaped his life's work.
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story by Martin Luther King Jr.
"I remember the first time I heard the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. It felt like he was speaking directly to me, saying, 'You, too, can do something.' I soon wrote a letter to Dr. King asking for his help in desegregating a nearby college. Eventually he became my big brother, my mentor, and my hero."
Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, published by Fellowship of Reconciliation
"I remember reading Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story when I was a student in Nashville, participating in nonviolence workshops led by Reverend Jim Lawson of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He taught us so much about nonviolence, how it was used all over the world to fight segregation. And during the workshops, he would pass out this little comic book. The words and the pictures made the Montgomery Bus Boycott come alive for me and for so many young people."
The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas by Mahatma Gandhi
"I first read about Gandhi when I was a student at American Baptist College. We studied what Gandhi attempted to do in South Africa and what he accomplished in India. The teachings of Gandhi, the philosophy of passive resistance and nonviolence—also taught by Martin Luther King Jr.—inspired hundreds and thousands and millions of citizens in America and helped free and liberate not just a people but a nation."
Civil Disobedience and Other Essays by Henry David Thoreau
"In those workshops with Reverend Lawson, we also studied Thoreau and 'Civil Disobedience.' This essay is an essential work for understanding nonviolence as a personal philosophy."
Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World by Louis Fischer
"I remember reading this particular edition by Louis Fischer and discussing it in class and among my friends. The words were liberating. Even today, when I'm faced with a tough decision in Congress, I think, What would Gandhi do?"