“March: Book 3,” a graphic novel about the later years t of the civil rights movement, won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature on Wednesday night in New York.
John Lewis, a congressman from Georgia and one of the key players in the movement, collaborated on the book series, with his staff member Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell. Lewis helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, at which the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.
But on Wednesday, Lewis spoke of earlier recollections about segregation.
“I grew up in rural Alabama, very poor. Very few books in the home,” Lewis said, his voice wavering. “We were told that the library was for whites only and not for coloreds. And to come her and receive this award . . . It’s too much.”
“But I had a wonderful teacher in elementary school who told me ‘Read, child, read,’ ” he continued. “And I tried to read everything. I love books.”
Co-writer Aydin, who pitched the idea of what is now a trilogy to Lewis several years ago, said there were two take-aways from the award. The first was that the story of the civil rights movement should be passed on to young people. The second was more lighthearted.
“Let the prejudice against comic books be buried once and for all.” Aydin said to laughs and applause.
The four other nominees for the Young People’s Literature were “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds, “Raymie Nightengale” by Kate DiCamillo, “The Sun Is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon and “When the Sea Turned to Silver” by Grace Lin.
The awards also honors writers of adult books in the categories of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.