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CNN "Newsroom" - "March"


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LEMON: You probably didn't know this one. Congressman John Lewis is a comic book superstar. Lewis is the only speaker from the 1963 march on Washington, the only one who's still alive. And just days ago, Lewis became the number-one selling comic book author in the nation. That's according to "The New York Times" best-sellers list.

Congratulations to him.

"March" book one, traces his journey in the civil rights movement when he endured tear gas, police beatings and at least 40 arrests.

Lewis says he wrote "March" to spread the message of nonviolent protests to a new generation.

And I sat down with Congressman Lewis and the co-author, long-time aide as well, Andrew Aydin, about this story. And I got the story about this comic book. It's called "March."


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: There is one scene in "March" where people would say we don't serve a certain group of people. A person responded and said we don't eat them.

LEMON: We don't serve black people good because I don't eat them, right?

You know, I was reading about this. That's actually how this book came about. You were sort of making jokes, you guys were together, and you didn't realize he had this sense of humor. And you started talking to him about comic books, right? And he said there was a comic book involved. Tell me the story, Andrew.

ANDREW AYDIN, CO-AUTHOR, "MARCH": It was 2008. I was working as his press secretary on his primary campaign. It had gotten to the end of the campaign and we started talking about what we would do after. What is honest and admitted I was going to go to a comic book convention. And so, there was a little jeering and a little laughing. I kind of took it in stride and the congressman turned around and he said, you know, there was a comic book during the movement and it was incredibly influential.

And that little moment right there, I didn't know it at the time, but it changed my life.

LEMON: That was the impetus to this? That started this?


LEMON: How do you feel about that?

LEWIS: Well, I feel very good about it. When you look back a little more than five years ago, and Andrew said to me that, Congressman, you should write a comic book. I sort of looked and said, you know, I'm not sure I should do that.

And he came back again and I responded by saying something like, if you write it with me. Let's do it. And the rest is history now.

LEMON: One wouldn't think that there would be a comic book associated with a movement, with the march. And yet the one that inspired it was a serious one about a bus boycott in Montgomery. How did you even remember that?

LEWIS: Well, I remember it very well. I received a copy of the book. It sold for 10 cents. To read about the struggle in Montgomery, how people walked, shared rides, carpooled, for more than 381 days rather than ride the buses. And that inspired me. I started attending these nonviolent workshops.

LEMON: From a comic book?

LEWIS: From a comic book. Because it was a young man who taught us -- to believe in the way of peace, in the way of love, in the way of nonviolence. So we wanted to do this book to teach another generation. They, too, can do something. They, too, can make a contribution.

LEMON: How do you put that in? How do you make that in, chronicle that into a comic book?

AYDIN: So much is told through oral history what my job was and what we tried to do is take down those words and put them on paper.

LEMON: Were you ever worried people may get the wrong idea about, why is John Lewis putting this in a comic book? This is serious business.

LEWIS: It is serious, but we had fun. It was -- it was drama. The thing about putting it in the comic book, children, young children, and people not so young would have an opportunity to read it and feel it. They called these illustrators, these unbelievable gifted artists.

LEMON: Make it real, make it plain, I think about what you went through, my parents went through, and grandparents went through, I don't always see that fire in young people now. And it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart.

What do you do with that?

LEWIS: Well, it is my hope, it is my desire to see another generation of young people with passion. I believe in passion. I believe in drama.

Andrew will tell you, I told the story over and over again in this book. And people were saying, what are we going to do, John? I said we're going to march.

You have to find a way to dramatize the issue. Put a face on it. Make it real.

LEMON: You're a kid. You're younger than me. You're sitting here with John Lewis and you have a comic book that you have put together with John Lewis. Did you ever think in a million years that that would happen? Come on.

AYDIN: No, no. I mean, I say this. I was 24 when I asked him. I didn't know any better.

LEWIS: But you had courage.

AYDIN: I had the fearlessness of youth that you talk about. It's so important young people read this. And if we give them the tools of nonviolence, the tools to properly protest and to follow, I think we'll all be surprised by what they'll accomplish.


LEMON: Congressman John Lewis' story is part of my special documentary "We Were There: The March on Washington, An Oral History" airing tonight 8:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

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