Civil rights leader, 'March' co-author, Congressman John Lewis to speak at 2016 ALA Annual Conference

Wed, 03/23/2016


Sarah Ostman
Communications Manager
ALA Public Programs Office

Congressman John Lewis — renowned civil rights leader and co-author of the acclaimed graphic novel series March — will make a special appearance with his award-winning March co-creators at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, in observation of the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

This special event, March with Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell: A Celebration of NEH’s 50th Anniversary will be held from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 25, at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.

NEH and ALA have been working together to bring the humanities to communities across the country for more than 40 years. Most recently, NEH awarded ALA with a grant for The Great Stories Club, a reading and discussion program for at-risk and underserved teens. March: Book One is part of the NEH-funded Great Stories Club. As the program continues through July 2017, another 1,925 young adults will participate in the program through an additional 175 libraries.

“In their own lives, the children and young adults involved in the Great Stories Club struggle with some of the very issues presented in March: Book One,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams, who will introduce the event. “Literature gives us resources to help us understand the trials and triumphs we encounter in our personal lives. I hope the young participants in the Great Stories Club are able to use the books they read to connect to the world around them and interpret their own experiences.”

The program will feature Lewis, and Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, co-creators of the award-winning graphic novel trilogy. They will discuss the legacy of the civil rights movement, the power of visual literature to educate and inspire today’s youth, and the crucial role of libraries in our democracy. A one-hour book signing will immediately follow the program.

Often called “one of the most courageous persons the civil rights movement ever produced,” Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights and securing civil liberties. Despite physical attacks, serious injuries and more than 40 arrests, he has remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.

Born near Troy, Alabama, on Feb. 21, 1940, Lewis grew up in an era of segregation. Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., he went on to lead sit-ins, become a Freedom Rider, and speak at 1963's March on Washington as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Together with Hosea Williams, he led the landmark “Bloody Sunday” march in Selma, Alabama, paving the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was elected to Congress in 1986 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Now, in collaboration with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, he is sharing his story in March, a New York Times best-selling trilogy of graphic novels, winning honors from the Robert F. Kennedy Book Awards and ALA’s Coretta Scott King Book Awards, as well as YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens and Outstanding Books for the College Bound. The Washington Post declared that “there is perhaps no more important modern book to be stocked in American school libraries than March.” The series is used in schools across the country to teach the civil rights movement to new generations. The final volume, March: Book Three, will be released in August 2016.

Seventy-five libraries selected for the Great Stories Club will be invited to a training workshop in Orlando during the ALA Annual Conference, where they will receive priority seating for March with Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell: A Celebration of NEH’s 50th Anniversary. Grantees will also receive complimentary copies of the March books, courtesy of NEH and Top Shelf Productions/IDW Publishing.

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About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 55,000 members in academic, public, school, government and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at

About the Great Stories Club

The Great Stories Club is a reading and discussion program for at-risk teens, created by ALA’s Public Programs Office and supported by NEH. Applications will be accepted until April 15 for the 2016 round of Great Stories Club grants, which offer books under the theme “The Art of Change: Creation, Growth and Transformation.” First offered as a pilot in 2006, the program has reached more than 700 libraries in 49 states and more than 30,000 young adults (ages 12 to 21).