"WHAT A GIFT JOHN LEWIS WAS" (PRESIDENT OBAMA): FIRST EDITION OF JOHN LEWIS IN THE LEAD, AN EXCEPTIONAL COPY INSCRIBED BY JOHN LEWIS
(LEWIS, John) (ANDREWS, Benny) HASKINS, Jim and BENSON, Kathleen. John Lewis in the Lead. A Story of the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Lee & Low, 2006. Tall octavo (8-1/2 by 11-1/2 inches), original pictorial laminated paper boards, original dust jacket. $2100.
First edition of Haskins and Benson's award-winning book, featuring 15 full- and double-page color illustrations by preeminent African American artist Benny Andrews, an especially scarce copy inscribed on the title page by Congressman Lewis, "To P— Keep the faith, John Lewis 4-21-07."
This beautifully illustrated book follows Lewis from his childhood through to his election to Congress. The vivid and engaging text, by award-winning author Haskins and co-author Benson, is richly supported by 15 full- and double-page illustrations from original work by African American artist Benny Andrews, whose paintings are housed in over 30 American museums. Particularly moving are the book's accounts of the Freedom Rides, Lewis' Speech at the March on Washington, and his leadership on that fateful day on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. As the text records, it was there that Lewis, Reverend Hosea Williams and nearly 600 people were confronted by a "swarm of state troopers… John remembered the way his Aunt Seneva had taught him to walk with the wind… 'We should all pray,' John told Reverend Williams." As the troopers charged, with "his head bowed in prayer, John heard the sounds of terror… suddenly a trooper swung his club at John, knocking him to the ground."
Throughout the book, Benny Andrews' bold images "combine handsome individual portraits of Lewis with overviews of the horrific street violence by mobs, police, and troopers. Without sensationalizing, this shows the bravery of the activists and the difficult fight they faced" (Booklist). John Lewis once said of Andrews: he used "his brush and pen to capture the essence and spirit of his time… there was no line where his activism ended and his art began." Andrews was especially regarded for his "distinctive figurative style,… with an economy of lines and elongated figures" (New Georgia Encyclopedia). John Lewis in the Lead, intended for younger readers but meaningful for all, won a 2006 Carter G. Woodson Book Award. Congressman Lewis was honored at his funeral by President Obama, who spoke of that day on the bridge. Lewis "thought he was going to die," Obama said. "When John woke up, and checked himself out of the hospital, he would make sure the world saw a movement that was, in the words of Scripture, 'hard pressed on every side, but not crushed'… What a gift John Lewis was. We are all so lucky to have had him walk with us for a while, and show us the way." First edition, first printing: issued in laminated paper boards (this copy) and in wrappers, no priority established. Containing 15 full- and double-page color illustrations by Benny Andrews from his original work "rendered in oils and fabric collage." Chronology at rear with five black-and-white photographic illustrations.
A fine copy, exceedingly scarce inscribed by Lewis.