I picked The Silence of our Friends up because it was Nate Powell’s art. Nate Powell is the artist on the March trilogy. Silence of Our Friends was published two years before the first book of the March Trilogy.
This is a smaller and more intimate graphic novel in many ways. Instead of intentionally being a biography of the Civil Rights movement as a whole, Silence of Our Friends attempts to tells the story of two men, and their families, during a relatively small period in one city.
It is in many ways hard to describe any significant incident in the Civil Rights era as small. Lives were changed, people were killed. But unless you are a pretty close student of the Civil Rights era, this protest, the police response, the deaths associated with it were not a “first” or “greatest” or particular incident in most respects. In some ways, I think that makes the story more important because it was more mundane. It is also an interesting story because like the end of the third book of the March trilogy, it recounts the shift of the Civil Rights era into the Black Power movement.
The Silence of Our Friends could have turned into a ‘white savior book’. Jack Long, a white Reporter, because of where he was, and because of his friendship with Larry Thompson, a lawyer and organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was able to testify that it was the police, not the students, that were responsible for the death of a police officer during a protest. Jack Long is not a particularly heroic character. Even though he does care about civil rights and does fight for news coverage, he is also likely an alcoholic, he does not fight every time he could fight for the best news coverage he can get, and he is afraid, with good reason, for his family and job. Larry Thompson and many of the other named Black characters are more heroic, their lives are on the line.
Like real life, there is nuance and subtly here. I think it is worth reading, but doesn’t rise to importance of the March trilogy. If I had to recommend one, I would recommend the larger, and more important March trilogy. But if your budget can handle it, or you can find it used or in a library. The Silence of Our Friends is a story worth reading.
The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos and Nate Powell Purchase Links: Paperback