The graphic novel as a nonviolent protest
Renowned graphic novelist Andrew Aydin to speak at Virginia Tech.
August 11, 2023
What happens when a writer, an illustrator, and a politician and civil rights activist join forces? The result is a creative manifesto in the form of the graphic novel trilogy “March.”
Andrew Aydin, graphic novelist and co-author of “March,” will kick off the fall semester as the Aims of Education speaker for the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston at Virginia Tech. He will deliver a talk on his journey as a writer and civil rights activist and his collaborations with Congressman John Lewis.
The event details
- Where: Steger Hall Conference Center, Virginia Tech
- When: Monday, Aug. 21, at 4 p.m.
- For more information: Contact Ashley Reed
This event is open to all students, faculty, staff, and the public. Admission is free, and the talk will be followed by a reception. If you need an accommodation to attend Aydin’s talk, please contact Ashley Reed at least two business days prior to the event.
From graphic novels to activism
Aydin is renowned for his significant contributions to the world of graphic novels, especially for co-writing the award-winning trilogy “March” alongside Lewis and illustrator Nate Powell. This trilogy offers an autobiographical account of Lewis’s experiences and struggles during the Civil Rights Movement.
In addition to Aydin’s collaboration on “March,” he has written several graphic novels exploring various aspects of history and contemporary themes, weaving together narratives to engage readers of all ages.
“We are thrilled to host Andrew Aydin as our Aims of Education speaker," said Reed, faculty principal for the residential college. “His award-winning work with the late Congressman Lewis introduced new generations of readers to the struggles and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement. We believe his visit will inspire our students and the wider community to engage in meaningful conversations about social justice and equality."
Reed, associate professor in the Department of English, said Aydin’s extensive experience as an activist and author makes this a unique opportunity for attendees to gain valuable insights into storytelling, social change, and the significance of graphic novels and comics as a medium for activism.
Why “March” is important
“Making ‘March,’ itself was a nonviolent act of protest,” Aydin said, “because this was history that the congressman and I both believed had been deliberately and systematically excluded from education. And with this trilogy, it made the history accessible, dramatized the conflict, and that put it on a literary pedestal.
“Through graphic novels and comics, we can teach people about these complicated issues. ‘March’ is 600 pages, but it can still be read in a day. And readers will have a sense of the whole Civil Rights Movement with more detailed than they possibly could get through any other medium. We need to be doing more nonfiction comics, both to teach history and to teach other fundamental ideas.”
From congressional aide to author
The “March” collaboration began in Lewis’ office, where Aydin was first working as a congressional aide. He wrote social media posts, speeches, and letters for the congressman. However, Aydin’s passion for comics, along with his research on the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King & The Montgomery Story” for his master's thesis, inspired him to transform Lewis’ story into a graphic novel. Together, the duo spent two years crafting the text and then enlisted Powell to illustrate the trilogy. Once published, the list of awards and honors grew.
Validation of making a difference
From rave reviews to awards, here are a just a few of Aydin’s writing achievements:
- Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, 2022, 2017, 2016, and 2014
- Sibert Medal, 2017
- Michael L. Printz Award, 2017
- Coretta Scott King Book Award Author Winner, 2017 and 2014
- Georgia Author of the Year, 2017
- National Book Award, 2016
- Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Special Recognition, 2014
Written by Leslie King