Published all the way back in 1957 by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story may well be one of the the most influential comics ever.
The sixteen page comic tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The book was distributed among churches, civil rights groups and schools across America, to advocate the principles of non-violence and teaching non-violent resistance. Essentially, the comic provided a brief coaching for the Civil Rights movement.
The book largely went completely unnoticed by the comic book industry, but thanks to the grassroots distribution method, it spread very quickly among civil rights groups, schools, and churches and helped to trigger a motivation for a new generation to stand up and join the global fight for equality, non-violently.
The slim comic book, fully endorsed and supported by Martin Luther King Jr himself, bypassed the media as it existed at that time, an idea proposed by prominent Fellowship of Reconciliation members Rev. Glenn E. Smiley and Alfred Hassler. King suggested editorial additions to the finalized comic book.
The comic book begins with a simple, one-page synopsis of the life and education of Martin Luther King Jr. all the way up to 1957, the current day.
After that brief summary, the narrative shifts over to Montgomery, Alabama in the year 1954. Here, an African American man simply names Jones talks of life in Montgomery under the Jim Crow laws. Jones describes the events of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the important role played Rosa Parks and M.L.K., Jr. Even when his home is bombed during the boycott, King advocates for non-violence in the story.
The last part of the comic book provides practical advice on how to pursue nonviolent activism and discusses the “Montgomery Method” of non-violence, with its roots firmly planted in the activism of Mahatma Gandhi.
It’s an interesting read, working as somewhat of a time capsule back to a time in America where so many were divided. And also perhaps, can teach us a history lesson for the divisive times we live in today.