Activism Comics History

Read Good Trouble

Read Good Trouble by Christopher Noxon

Good Trouble is the helpful antidote to all the pessimism and name-calling that is permeating today’s political and social dialogues. Revisiting episodes from the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, it highlights the essential lessons that modern-day activists and the civically minded can extract and embrace in order to move forward and create change. In words and vivid pen-and-watercolor illustrations, journalist Christopher Noxon dives into the real stories behind the front lines of the Montgomery bus boycott and the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins and notable figures such as Rosa Parks and Bayard Rustin, all while exploring the parallels between the civil rights movement era and the present moment. This thoughtful, fresh approach is sure to inspire conversation, action, and, most importantly, hope.

Really enjoyed this illustrated book drawing lessons from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. It tells the story of everyday activists and how they fit into the movement, and is empowering and hopeful while acknowledging that all the bad shit is still happening and the struggle never ended. A good read for me right now with the stress of world events weighing on my anxiety.

The sketchy art style is unassuming and lively, a good fit for the serious subject matter not to be tied to exact realism.

The chapters / lessons:

  • Be brave
  • Get organized
  • Be bold
  • Have faith
  • Be nonviolent
  • Lead!
  • Keep focus
  • Be joyous

Some activists I didn’t know about:

  • Georgia Gilmore – got fired from her cook job for protesting and helped feed and fund the Montgomery bus boycott by cooking and donating the proceeds
  • Fannie Lou Hamer – got fired and arrested and beaten for registering to vote – “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” – then started an agricultural cooperative because “when you’ve got four hundred quarts of greens and gumbo soup canned for the winter, nobody can push you around or tell you what to say or do.”
  • Bayard Rustin – gay Quaker-raised advocate of nonviolence who taught Dr. King about Gandhi’s teachings, and sounds like a delight of a human

A good reminder: outrage isn’t activism.

Activism is a community activity. Frontline folks aren’t the only helpers, you need the people on the back end running logistics, writing letters, baking cookies…

“Stop obsessing over the oppressors. Get to work exposing acts of oppression.” Don’t let the people distract focus from the problem.

“Insiders aren’t always the enemy.”

“Nonviolence is active. It requires training and discipline and self-policing.” A few violent agitators will suck up all the attention instead of your message.

Disruption must be paired with specific demands.

Public pressure works better than policy.

Always have backup – a spotter or witness who doesn’t look involved and can call for help.

  1. Motivation
  2. Money
  3. Media – it’s essential to get your message out

This is written by a white guy who acknowledges he’s acting as an ally. After a brief intro about how he got into this project, he keeps most of the focus on the people who were there – he did lots of interviews and research. As the book points out, we all have a part to play: “Yes to standing up for one another. Yes to mutuality. Yes to integration.”

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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