History, Comics, and the Civil Rights Movement

Matthew Teutsch
10 min readApr 3, 2022

This semester, I am teaching two Civil Rights era memoirs: Lila Quintero Weaver’s Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White and John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell’s March Trilogy. I thoroughly enjoy these texts, and I enjoy teaching them. However, as I reread them, I keep thinking about what the texts don’t cover. I understand that each of these works are focused on the experiences of individuals, Weaver and Lewis respectively. As such, they cannot cover every aspect of the movement. As well, they both work to add to the cultural narrative of the Civil Rights Movement, a narrative that differs from the extensive historical record one would encounter within a classroom or in scholarly texts focused on the movement. Yet, the more I learn and read, the more I think about small moments here and there where a broader fleshing out of some things could occur. Within the realm of graphic memoirs, though, this becomes hard, especially consider the production of such texts. Today, I want to look at a couple of moments, specifically in March, where I wanted to see more. In this manner, March and Darkroom serve as a springboard for broader, lengthier discussions and inquiry in the classroom.

The first moment occurred in March Book One when we see the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in April 1960 at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. This moment caught my attention because of other things that I have learned about SNCC during that period. March cannot cover the October 14–16 meeting that took place in Atlanta in the lead up to the Atlanta sit-ins on October 19, notably because Lewis did not participate in those sit-ins; so, this moment, for me, serves as a space for educators to fill in more of the history, illuminating the picture.

The October Atlanta sit-ins are important for a myriad of reasons, most notably because of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s arrest and his transfer to DeKalb County after the release of the participants, himself included, in Fulton County. That transfer, and the move by the judge to send King to Reidsville, prompted the Kennedy campaign to work to get King out of jail. They succeeded, and their role…

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.