Tuesday, February 25, 2014

King: A Special Edition Graphic Novel by Ho Che Anderson

--> King was originally published in three volumes (1993-2002, Fantagraphics Books), went out of print in 2006, and was republished in a Special Edition, 2010. While very briefly introducing his father’s influence upon him, King focuses most of its attention on MLK’s adult path and his role in the civil rights movement. We learn about King through a weaving of first- and third-person narratives, providing personal glimpses and insights into the man (versus the legend). We learn why he was loved, feared, hated, and revered. We learn how he organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott; how he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and their Crusade for Citizenship, Freedom Rides, Lunch Counter Boycotts, Project C, and Birmingham Manifesto; we read about the March on Washington and his “I Have a Dream” speech (among others); his role in Chicago and CORE and his growing struggle promoting non-violent protests; and his tragic death in 1968. Aside from King’s own personal life, we also learn of his relationship with his colleagues, communities, and with politicians such as the Kennedys and Lyndon B. Johnson. We learn not only about what he did, but how he navigated through politics and social change.

King opens with Martin as a boy in 1935, knocking on his father’s office door as his father’s preparing for his weekly sermon. Young Martin is urged to get to his place I the pew with his sisters. While we experience little else of King’s childhood this inference to his father’s influence is well done and well placed. The remainder of the book deals with King’s growing concern, participation and leadership in the American Civil Rights Movement.
King by Ho Che Anderson, Fantagraphic Books
We learn of the movement’s inner workings, its challenges and tactics, and King’s persuasive push for nonviolent protest.  What makes this so special is Anderson’s creative use of the graphic novel format, telling this story through a collage of narratives, dialogue, photos and images that effortlessly meld multiple perspectives. As a result the book feels like an honest depiction of the man while relaying the struggles and conflicts faced by all those involved. What’s so unique about Anderson’s storytelling is that King is not so much the main character, as he is a primary player in the particular place and time in history. It is as much about the Civil Rights Movement as it is about King.
Anderson brilliantly and creatively plays with this graphic novel format and collage, creating a textured story and feel, similar to that of a documentary film. Interestingly, in the beginning of the book, the images are done in black and white with a splash of red reflecting more violent moments in history. Towards the end of the book, the feel of the art changes as does Anderson’s use of color. While a reflection on my part, it feels like the color is introduced at the same point in history as color television became more available and accessible, and the art style also seems to reflect the growing popularity of the cubist movement at that time as well. Just as Anderson provides multiple voices in his narratives of King, he provides us with multiple visual aesthetics as well, creating a textured, personal “feel” throughout his story.
King by Ho Che Anderson, Fantagraphic Books
  I'll be posting more about this later and instead, want to leave you, at the close of Black History Month, with some of King's oratory gems:
 King, mobilizing the Montgomery bus strike:
 “American citizens…determined to acquire our citizenship to the fullness of its meaning…our protest is a revolt with the system, not against it. We are out to reform…determined to get the situation corrected…we are here this evening to say to those who have mistreated us that we are tired of being segregated and humiliated by the brutal feet of oppression… Now, unity is the great need of the hour...If we protest courageously and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the history books are written, somebody will have to say ‘There lived a race of people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights and for what they believed.’”
King, questioning Black leadership on They Myron Files television show, early 1960's:
--> “…We always believed the White Church would stand with us through our struggles. Instead they’ve stood against us…Murray, once the Church shaped society. Today it measures rather than molds popular opinion.”  King, on the need for non-violent protest:
--> “Obviously we want to gain the city-wide desegregation of all public facilities. But to bring that about we have to attack the business community rather than the city or federal governments. Basic activist philosophy, you don’t win against a political power structure where you don’t have votes, and so far we don't have much of a voting presence despite what the same Toms may watt to believe with JFK… Anyway… you can win against an economic power structure when you have the economic power to make the difference between a merchant’s profit and loss.”   King, shortly after the Rosa Parks incident, addressing an audience at the Holt Street Baptist Chirch, rural Montgomery:
-->    “…our protest is a revolt with the system, not against it…We are here this evening to say to those who have mistreated us that we are tired of being segregated and humiliated by the brutal feet of oppression. We have sometimes give our white brothers the feeling that we liked the ways we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from a patience that makes us content with anything less than freedom – or justice…Now unity is the great need of the hour. If we are untied we can get many of the things that we not only desire but are due… In our protest there will be no violence, no white person will be taken from his home and lynched Our method will be persuasion, not coercion. Law and order and love must be our regulating ideals! ..If we protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love, wen the history books are written somebody will have to say ‘There lived a race of people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights and for what they believed.’”
Excerpts from King's "I Have a Dream Speech" March on Washington, August 28, 1963:
"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination... One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check...Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check. A check which has come back marked, 'insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt... So we have come to cash this check - a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom ad the security of justice...
...There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you  e satisfied? WE can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horror of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one... 
...I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the movement I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream. I have a dream that one day the nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed "We hold these truths to be self-evident - that ALL men are created equal."...I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day...When we let freedom ring. Wehn we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual - Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty - we are free at last!"
King by Ho Che Anderson, Fantagraphic Books
 For teachers and parents who want some additional resources on King, please see:
·      The King Center – with digital archives of his work and speeches (including hand-written notes he added to telegrams and speeches); an overview of Dr. King’s life and King’s philosophy (including his six steps and principles of nonviolence and nonviolent social change;
·      PBS’ American Experience: Civil Rights Movement Non-Violent Protests -  contains related videos, photographs, interviews, press coverage and primary sources, milestones, reflections, notes for teachers, and more.
·      http://www.pbs.org/jefferson/enlight/brown.htm - contains links and details of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision
·      Watch, read and listen to Martin Luther King’s speeches at http://www.mlkonline.net/
·      Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have a Dream speech – text and audio
·      http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/themes/civil-rights/exhibitions.html - multimedia resources from the Library of Congress that support the teaching about civil rights
·      Historical places of the civil rights movement – We Shall Overcome: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary with an introduction, itinerary maps, list of sites and links to learn more.
·      http://www.academicinfo.net/africanamcr.html - civil rights history resource.
·      http://www.pbs.org/teachers/thismonth/civilrights/index1.html - Teaching ideas for teaching the civil rights movement in American literature (all grade levels)
·      http://www.crmvet.org/poetry/poemhome.htm - poems of the Freedom Movement
·      Freedom Rides – detailed information and additional links through http://www.npr.org/2006/01/12/5149667/get-on-the-bus-the-freedom-riders-of-1961
·      Notes and brochures of the SCLC’s Crusade for Citizenship found now at The King Center.
·      For a more interactive link on The Freedom Rides, a production of “American Experience and PBS offers links retracing the route of the ride; first-person accounts of the rides through biographies, photos and film clips; a timeline of the events; and a discussion of the issues.
·      Lunch counter sit-ins and other Civil Rights Movement campaigns and events found at http://americanhistory.si.edu/brown/history/6-legacy/freedom-struggle-2.html
·      PBS explores Project C and the Birmingham Campaign with photos and film clips; provides President Kennedy’s response to the violence in Birmingham; a segment on “Birmingham and the Children’s March; and more – including a “Quiz: The Year 1963”
·      The History Channel’s interactive link on The March on Washington – with video clips of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the March from Selma to Montgomery; background on the March on Washington; and information on how King’s sppech became an impromptu addition; 
·      Background on the Emmett Till murder and PBS’ American Experience: The Murder of Emmett Till with further readings; a timeline; teacher’s guide; and more.
·      Separate is not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education – resource material provided by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History – with links to other important milestones in the civil rights movement.
·      http://www.whyy.org/generations/oral.html - guide for students on how to conduct oral history interviews with samples of American slave narratives and other primary resource sets
·      http://www.history.com/search?q=civil+rights+movement&x=0&y=0 - History channel list of links and resources
·      http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/civil-rights-movement and http://www.slj.com/2013/01/books-media/collection-development/focus-on-collection-development/civil-rights-everyday-heroes-focus-on-january-2013/ - provides extensive lists for further reading on the civil rights movement for students of varying ages and reading levels.

As always, thanks for your visit.  Please leave your impressions and opinions in the comments below.


  1. I always like to see King in different ways, especially when so many want to co-opt his image.

  2. This sounds like a book full of valuable information. I like reading about all of the struggles and about a man and his convictions.

  3. I can never read King's speeches without his voice sounding in my head. The books seem an accessible and unique way to tell his life and struggle. I suspect the author has an interesting back-story too with a name like that.