March Book Two: Reading and Teaching Guide | Ages 9 - 18

March Book Two: Reading and Teaching Guide | Ages 9 - 18


March: Book Two continues Congressman John Lewis’s personal account of the Civil Rights Movement, spanning the period when the movement’s nascent student wing becomes a nationally influential force. In this volume, Lewis recounts his participation in the landmark 1961 Freedom Rides, his leadership role in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and his fiery address to the nation at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. While continuing a broad survey of the national movement, March: Book Two also portrays the author’s development as a thinker, leader, and strategist. Throughout, events of the 1960s are juxtaposed with the January 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, calling attention to the complex relationships of past and present milestones of race in America. Darker and more complex than its predecessor, March: Book Two is best suited for high school readers, who will recognize both continuities and changes in the dynamics of society and the methods of activism since the 1960s.
See The "FOR FURTHER READING" section below for links to teaching guides for March: Book One.


March is a unique project that engages readers with unforgettable imagery and first-person narration, helping to contextualize the history of the civil rights movement and allowing readers to connect in a deeply personal way with the story of nonviolent activism in America. At a time when, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the majority of states earn a D or F grade in teaching the Civil Rights Movement to their young people, the March series has quickly become a key resource for schools, libraries, activists, and the general reader. It has been adopted in classrooms nationwide, spent 60 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, received the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Honor, been declared one of YALSA’s “Outstanding Books for the College Bound,” and even become the first graphic novel to win a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Additionally, colleges and universities from coast to coast have embraced March with common reading programs, compelling tens of thousands of students to read, study, and discuss Lewis’s story together. As America continues to grapple with issues of race and the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, March offers an unforgettable success story and a vital way forward.
When I was a young man, a comic book called Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story was used by Jim Lawson and others to spread the word about our movement and teach the philosophy of nonviolence. I believe comic books and graphic novels can again be a tool to educate and inspire new generations. It has been a great joy for me to work on this graphic novel, and I hope you will find it useful in your schools and libraries. I am truly grateful for your hard work.



As a graphic memoir authored by a major historical figure, March offers rich opportunities for classroom instruction. This guide specifically calls out opportunities to align with the Common Core’s standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies. 


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.
Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem



Extensions addressing multi-modal literacy experience with sequential art, single images, and perspective can shape and inform readers’ comprehension of March: Book Two and the historic events it depicts. Some extensions suggested for either classroom use or in book discussion groups are: Points of View, Music and Movement, and Comparing Primary Sources

Points of View

One of the powerful communication devices employed by sequential art is placing the reader within an immediate context, providing the capacity to share points of view in literal representation. While reading March: Book Two, pause to consider how point of view is used in these passages: 

1. When John Lewis arrives for the first time in Washington, DC, he goes to the Fellowship House and is introduced to the initial members of the Freedom Ride, which he has volunteered to join (pp. 28–33). What do we learn about the membership he joined there at that first meeting, and about John Lewis as a new arrival?

2. What does John Lewis see as strange in the behavior of the fraternity brothers he sees on campus when he’s enrolled as a student at Fisk University, in 1962 (p. 116)?

3. During a protest at the segregated Cairo, IL, swimming pool, in 1962, a famous photo was taken of SNCC members at prayer. Why is this image used to introduce the following passage in March: Book Two, which depicts what happened after the photo was taken (pp. 120–121? Discuss the ways in which real-life actions can be transformed into popular images.

4. The arrival of Martin Luther King, Jr, and the SCLC in Birmingham, AL, on April 9, 1963, (pp. 126–129) is recounted here in a passage that makes use of eyes and vision as its theme. Discuss how this theme is depicted through the passage and what each repetition of this motif communicates about the event.

5. What pivotal moment in the fight for equal rights is foreshadowed by the scene that closes March: Book Two (pp. 177–180)?

6. List the different goals of the organizing groups who worked together to plan the March on Washington’s speeches. (pp. 154–157, 162–165) If you had been backstage when the discussion of speech content was underway, why would you support one or another of the points made by the group discussing how specific words and phrases could help or harm the mutual goal held by their organizations? What would you have advised John Lewis before he spoke?

Music and Movement

Throughout March: Book Two, just as throughout the Civil Rights Era, singing plays a powerful role as commentary on events and political positions as well as a way for those with a common goal to express their meeting point(s). Discuss the use of music and lyrics as they occur in these panels and pages:

1. “Which Side Are You On?” was originally a union organizing song, written in the 1930s by Florence Reece and later popularized by folk musician Pete Seeger. In March: Book Two, it’s performed by Jimmy McDonald during an early training period (p. 32) in preparation for the Freedom Ride. What is the song’s significance to that training?

2. Discuss the relevance of quoting Aretha Franklin’s performance of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” as a transition from the May 20, 1961 attack on the Freedom Riders in Montgomery, AL (pp. 71–79) to the 2009 presidential inauguration (pp. 80–81). What does the visual “overlap” of two different time periods communicate about those events? Note also the importance of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, and compare Franklin’s 2009 performance of the song at the same location.

3. What was the purpose of the Freedom Riders’ singing in Parchman Prison (pp. 103– 106), and how was it perceived by the jailers? In what ways could this scene function as a microcosm of the entire civil rights movement?

Comparing Primary Sources

Primary source documents of the Civil Rights era are available to enhance contextual awareness and support analytical thinking. March: Book Two is written by a first-hand participant and so the book itself can be considered a primary source. Supply students with access to other primary sources noted below as ones to consult.

1. March on Washington Flyer
This flyer was posted to alert community members to why and how they could participate in the March.

2. CBS News Special Report: Coverage of the March on Washington
Televised news specials provided both commentary and broadcast access to national events throughout the nation during this period. Note how the white journalist, speaking to the broad audience of Americans who are not present at the March on Washington, describes both the purposes and behaviors of those present. This newsreel also shows many scenes depicted on the pages of March: Book Two, from the viewpoint of professionally placed video cameras.

3. Mahalia Jackson and the Voices of the March on Washington, from the Rock and Roll hall of Fame
Includes the archival recording of the gospel singer’s performance of “How I Got Over”, at the March on Washington.

4. Jim Crow and Segregation (free iOS app from the Library of Congress’ digital archives)
While this ( digital collection can also be viewed free online at the Library of Congress site, the app has interactive elements that may expand learning for many students.



Additional Titles in This Series

March: Book One (With Teaching Guide!)

March: Book Three

The titles listed below touch on themes such as government’s mistreatment of citizens, life under Communism, resiliency, community, and the importance of a connection to the natural world. 
Burmese Moons (With Teaching Guide!)
Burmese Moons: Reading and Teaching | Ages 16 - 18

They Called Us Enemy also 
 (With Teaching Guide!)
They Called Us The Enemy: Reading and Teaching Guides - 7 Lessons!- | Ages 9 - 12


“John Lewis: The Civil Rights Movement—From Freedom Rider to Congressman” (BookTV, 2013)
Congressman Lewis first joined the nonviolent activist movement focused on desegregating the American South when he was 17. Here he talks about his earliest experiences as a protester, the leaders and books that influenced his beliefs in nonviolent activism, and how his experiences continue to have repercussions in his life more than 50 years later.

“Music of the Civil Rights Movement,” from Eyes on the Prize, PBS
Bernice Johnson Reagon was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s Freedom Singers. After reading her introduction to the music of the Civil Rights Movement, listen to the Freedom Singers. If you cannot find these recordings locally, Bernice Johnson Reardon maintains a Spotify channel you can access.

“Rep. John Lewis’ Speech at the 1963 March on Washington”
Lewis’s landmark speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963, was recorded and broadcast nationwide. This audiovisual recording of the speech, courtesy of Bill Moyers, complements the graphic depiction in March: Book Two.


Partridge, Elizabeth. Marching For Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2009) Many of the expert black and white photos in this nonfiction narrative reached publication for the first time in this book, which chronicles the role of African American youth in the 1965 marches for voting rights in Selma, AL.

Weaver, Lila Quintero. Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White (University of Alabama Press, 2012) A superb companion to March: Book Two, Weaver’s nonfiction graphic novel provides her eyewitness viewpoint on race in the 1960s—as seen by a Latina girl living in Alabama with her recently arrived family, including her father, whom she regularly accompanied as he photographed these events.

Wiles, Deborah. Revolution, Book Two of “The Sixties Trilogy” [audiobook format] (Scholastic, 2014), performed in audio by Stacey Aswad, Francois Battiste, Robin Miles, J. D. Jackson, produced by Listening Library (Random House). Set in Greenwood, MI, during the summer of 1964, the audiobook production of this young adult novel includes many performances of speeches, songs, and letters written by actual persons in SNCC, the federal government, and other related parties.


DuVernay, Ava (dir.), Selma (2014). This Oscar-nominated film can function as an effective “sequel” to March: Book Two, picking up with the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham and continuing into the Selma voting rights campaign of 1964–65, including the “Bloody Sunday” march co-led by John Lewis, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and the development of the Voting Rights Act. Students can examine the differences resulting from Selma’s focus on SCLC and Martin Luther King in contrast to March’s focus on SNCC and John Lewis.

This guide was developed and written by Francisca Goldsmith, who has been working with comics and teen readers for over 25 years. She is the author of The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Graphic Novels (ALA Editions) and regularly reviews and teaches graphic novels and comics in a variety of venues.


Please note that, in its accurate depiction of racism in the 1950s and 1960s, the March series contains several instances of racist language and other potentially offensive epithets. As with any text used in schools that may contain sensitivities, Top Shelf urges you to preview the text carefully and, as needed, to alert parents and guardians in advance as to the type of language as well as the authentic learning objectives that it supports.

    • Related Articles

    • March Book One: Reading and Teaching Guide | Ages 9 - 18

      OVERVIEW It is rare for an engaging work of graphic history to be told from the perspective of a central figure in that history itself—yet that is precisely the case with John Lewis’s personal account of the U.S. civil rights movement. As such, the ...
    • After the Spring: Reading and Teaching Guide | Ages 16 - 18

      OVERVIEW A Graphic Novel of Politics… and People What happens when a revolution fails? That’s the question at the center of Hélène Aldeguer’s sophisticated and award-winning After the Spring. And while it’s a text rich in history, politics, ...
    • Burmese Moons: Reading and Teaching Guide | Ages 16 - 18

      OVERVIEW A Story of Suffering… and Resilience All that Thazama and his friends want is to grow up peacefully in the safe community of their remote jungle tribe, the Zomi. What they get at the hands of Myanmar’s ruling military is the exact ...
    • Springtime in Chernobyl: Reading and Teaching Guide | Ages 16 - 18

      OVERVIEW It was the worst nuclear accident in history— that’s the part everyone knows. What’s less known is that to this day many still choose to live their lives and raise their families in the shadow of Chernobyl. It’s to this world that acclaimed ...
    • They Called Us Enemy: Reading and Teaching Guide - 7 Lessons!- | Ages 9 - 18

      OVERVIEW In response to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This set into motion the forced removal of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the West ...