© 2021
background_fid.jpg
In touch with the world ... at home on the High Plains
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

From Alabama Sharecroppers

Alabama tenant farmer and children. Family labor in cotton. Near Anniston, Alabama
Lange, Dorothea, photographer , 1936 Farm Security Administration, Office of War Information Library of Congress
/
Alabama tenant farmer and children. Family labor in cotton. Near Anniston, Alabama

Hi, this is Stephanie Goins of Amarillo, Texas for HPPR Radio Readers Book Club. Today, I’ll be covering one of the latest graphic novels in the Spring Read series, “Worth a Thousand Words.” The books I’ll be discussing are titled March, and it’s a three-book series about congressman John Lewis. These stories truly touch my heart, and they hit close to home for me.

Hi, this is Stephanie Goins of Amarillo, Texas for HPPR Radio Readers Book Club. Today, I’ll be covering one of the latest graphic novels in the Spring Read series, “Worth a Thousand Words.” The books I’ll be discussing are titled March, and it’s a three-book series about congressman John Lewis. These stories truly touch my heart, and they hit close to home for me. Book One is about how he grew up in the 1940s, and that’s the one I’ll discuss today.

Lewis grew up on a farm in Pike County, Alabama that his father purchased for $300 cash. It was every penny his father had to his name – money he earned by tenant farming. In 1951, John's uncle Otis decided to take John on a trip up North for the first time. He always saw something special in John. It wasn't just that John was a devoted student with his schoolwork, but that he was always serious, earnest, and very observant of the world. During the trip, they had to pass through Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. His uncle had to carefully map out where they would stop for gas and to use the restrooms, because it was not safe for them to just stop anywhere. Even when they did stop to use one of the "colored only" bathrooms, they would hear people say things like, “why are they here", or "what are those N-words doing with a car like that"? It wasn't until Ohio when they could finally relax and feel as if they wouldn't be harmed.

Young John was able to see things in Ohio that he never saw in Alabama. He could go into ANY store and purchase candy... and even go to the mall and shop like the white patrons. When he returned home a few months later, it was bittersweet. He was happy to be home, but home never felt the same for him.

When school started that fall, John started riding the bus. At first, he was excited, but sadly, school was just another reminder of how different life was for him and his siblings than it was for white children. The bus that picked them up was old and barely ran, and his school was run down and had no playground equipment--whereas the white students had a NEW bus and a BEAUTIFUL building with a WONDERFUL playground. So, John knew then that he was different... and he did not like that... AT ALL!

Well, when planting and harvest season came along, school was no longer a priority. John's parents needed him and his siblings to help with the fields. John was devastated, and he would find ways to sneak to school anyway, even though he knew he would be in trouble when he returned home. His father would scold him, though he knew how important an education was to his son.

In John's freshman year of high school, he read in the paper something turned his world upside-down. He heard that the U.S. Supreme Court had handed down its decision in the school desegregation case of Brown vs The Board of Education of Topeka. He was so excited knowing how things would soon change – that he’d have greater access and opportunity. But as time passed, he realized that change did NOT come (and was not coming).

Then he heard about 14-year-old Emmett Till. While visiting family in Mississippi, Emmett said “bye, baby” to a white woman – and the next day he was dead, pulled from the Tallahatchie River, beaten and drowned. Despite eyewitness testimony, an all-white jury found the perpetrators "NOT GUILTY.” The following week, the killers confessed in a magazine, but there was nothing to be done. They had already been tried…and John knew the world needed to change.

And that’s when he became an activist. John Lewis began planning and enacting non-violent sit-ins at lunch counters, voter registration drives, bus boycotts, “Freedom rides” into Southern towns to support civil rights, and – OF COURSE! – marches…all in the name of EQUAL RIGHTS for Black Americans.

I thank God every day for people like Congressman John Lewis. Sure, this country has a way to go with regards to equal rights, but his work helped break the ugly cycle of racism. For HPPR Radio Readers, this is Stephanie Goins in Amarillo.

Tags
Spring Read 2022: Graphic Novels—Worth a Thousand Words 2022 Spring ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
Stay Connected