The Durham County Library’s every-other-year Durham Reads program starts Saturday, in a fitting manner.
The title of the chosen book is “March: Book One,” and the opening event is just that: a march.
The marching starts at 9 a.m. at the main library branch on Roxboro Street and proceeds to the parking lot beside the Durham Arts Council and the new Civil Rights Mural; fitting again, since the book is U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ graphic novel based on his own experiences in the civil-rights movement.
Lewis and his co-author and congressional aide Andrew Aydin are scheduled to meet the marchers for a rally at the mural, lead a reading and discussion of their book at 2:30 Saturday afternoon in B.N. Duke Auditorium at N.C. Central University, and attend a dessert reception at 7:30 Saturday at Hill House.
The march and reading are free to the public; reception tickets are $75, benefitting the Durham Library Foundation (see bit.ly/1rlAZ21).
At 3 p.m. Sunday, Lewis and “State of Things” host Frank Stasio will talk about the 1963 March on Washington and the state of civil rights since then at Hayti Heritage Center; also free to the public.
Lewis’s book, co-authored with his congressional aide Andrew Aydin is the first of a projected trilogy, with the second volume, “March: Book Two,” due out early next year. Book One took first place on The New York Times’s best-seller list for graphic books as soon as it was released in August 2013.
In a pre-publication review, Kirkus Reviews called it, “A powerful tale of courage and principle igniting sweeping social change, told by a strong-minded, uniquely qualified eyewitness.”
Durham Reads Together, like similar programs across the U.S., aims to encourage reading and conversation on a given book’s themes by holding a series of pertinent events over a period of time. Durham’s first, in 2005, featured James McBride's memoir “The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother.” The most recent, in 2012, featured a mystery series set in North Carolina by novelist Margaret Maron.
This year is the first time the Durham library has picked a graphic book.
“The topic is timely and relevant,” library Director Tammy Baggett said when the choice was announced.
Lewis has represented Georgia’s fifth congressional district since 1987. A native of Alabama, he organized sit-in demonstrations as a Fisk University student in Nashville, was a Freedom Rider protesting bus segregation in 1961, a founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a major civil-rights organization of the 1960s, and a keynote speaker at the March on Washington
According to Lewis’s website, 1.usa.gov/1sEaRAQ, he has been arrested more than 40 times during his civil-rights career, and has won, among other honors, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s Profile in Courage Award.
He was also recipient of two 2014 Best of Atlanta awards from that city’s Creative Loafing magazine: Best Local Politician and Best Local Hero.
“At age 74, he manages to keep getting arrested,” Creative Loafing wrote, “His 45th peaceful run-in with the law occurred in October 2013 – and continues ... to serve his constituents well. He obtained a large affordable housing grant for homeless vets, is backing Georgia’s push for marriage equality and helping to fight controversial judicial nominations. And, of course, his incredible dance moves to the tune of Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ are something to behold.”