Two days after the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, the nation’s largest independent book festival will take place only a few miles from Georgia Perimeter College’s campuses with a focus on the Civil Rights movement and a keynote address by U.S. Congressman John Lewis.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival (AJC DBF) kicks off Friday with a sold-out keynote by Congressman Lewis, civil rights icon and the last surviving speaker from the historic event. Free events will continue on the Decatur Square Saturday and Sunday including a presentation Sunday at 3:45 p.m. by Martin Luther
Dr. King’s son and namesake will speak about his new picture book, “My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” at the Decatur Recreation Center gym.
There is also a major Civil Rights track of events as part of the eighth annual celebration of independent authors, illustrators, editors, publishers, booksellers and book lovers.
Lewis will discuss and autograph “March: Book One,” the first of a three-part memoir in graphic-novel form co-authored with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell.
“I love the fact that this is a graphic novel because it will appeal to young readers who may otherwise see the subject matter as outdated or of no interest to them,” said GPC associate professor Dr. Napolita Hooper-Simanga, (Lita Hooper on the Festival schedule.) She added, “It’s important to see the March on Washington as an event that changed not only America but other countries as well. What happened to black Americans and how they responded motivated other people to fight injustice and change their lives and the lives of generations to come.”
Dr. Hooper-Simanga is scheduled to speak at 3 p.m. Saturday on the City Hall Stage and at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on the Local Poetry State. She is an online humanities professor at GPC and is the author of “Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African-American Community,” “Thunder in Her Voice: The Narrative of Sojourner
Truth” and co-editor of “44 on 44: Forty-Four African American Writers on the Election of Barack Obama, 44th President of the
For those unable to attend the Lewis’s speech, the AJC plans to offer links to a live stream of the speech on ajc.com and myajc.com. Lewis will be signing copies of his book at the AJC tent on the Decatur Square from 1-2 p.m. Saturday.
Paul Hudson, Georgia Perimeter College associate history professor and former AJC DBF speaker said, “John L. Lewis of Atlanta was with MLK every step of the way, and his contributions for racial justice were fantastic. He was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge marching for the Voting Rights Act and was a key participant in nearly all the great Civil Rights events. He was battered and bruised after many demonstrations. I admire him greatly for what he has done for Civil Rights. Now he has taken up the cause of gay marriage for the same reason: Civil Rights,” said Hudson.
Hudson recommended that students celebrate the life of John Lewis because he is an authentic American hero.
The March on Washington had several speakers back-to-back, including the young Lewis –– making a case for racial justice. From 1963-66 Lewis was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that he helped form. He has served as congressman from Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District
“The March on Washington was significant because for the first time it was a biracial demonstration –– liberal and moderate whites, affected by King’s earlier eloquence, were emboldened to speak out along with African Americans for justice and participate in what King called ‘direct action,’ and it was done on a large grassroots scale,” said Hudson.
He added, “The March on Washington showed the magnitude of the Civil Rights movement in America. President John Kennedy had finally come around to an honest and sincere support of King, they had come to know each other, and so with the optimism that prevailed it was like a wonderful shining moment: peaceful, persuasive and foreshadowing the dawn
of a new day. It is remembered today because King’s Dream withstood the awful things that followed, including assassinations including his own. In the end the March on Washington represented a classic case of non violence overcoming violence.”
“The meaning of the March on Washington is found in the overarching ideals this country must strive to live up to: freedom, democracy, equality, justice. The March symbolized the importance of our right to express dissatisfaction with legislation and injustice and to demand change from
our elected officials. It also addressed the deeply-rooted racism that existed and still exists despite major strides in civil rights legislation,” said Dr. Hooper-Simanga.
Zion Abune, GPC criminal justice student said, “I don’t think the celebration is just for black people. A lot of people look up to him because he was such a good protester and a great leader in terms of fighting the system. I think he was a great symbol for a lot of minorities.”
The most obvious observation about life since August 1963 is that although we have made tremendous
progress, we still have a lot to accomplish.
“The March in 1963 fifty years ago was an historic turning point in our nation’s progressive attitude. Now MLK’s dream is even more inclusive: not just Christians and Jews, to which he referred, but Muslims, Hindus and everyone else of good will,” said Hudson.
For details about AJC Decatur Book Festival events go to decaturbookfestival.com. You can also download the free AJC Decatur Book Festival app from iTunes with the complete festival schedule.