Resist! A Visual History of Protest
Memoir, 50 pp
December 13, 2022, Aquarius Press LLC
Reviewed by Lisa Lickel
“Stop examining your belly button…get out there and make a change!” was William Franklin “Mac” McMahon’s lasting advice to all of us. Mac’s daughter, sculpturer Margot McMahon, devotedly shares decades of his work to make a difference in social justice across our world.
Through these short pages, Margot portrays her father as a POW in WWII, a family man, a reporter and an artist who became dedicated to the cause of creating a better society. The book opens as Mac is taken prisoner in Germany during his Army Air Corps service in World War II, missing one boot. Margot shares the story of his resolve to say nothing during the frequent interrogations. With his imagination to keep him company, Mac spent time “mind drawing” his surroundings: “ Insights into gestures and expressions kept him observing intently. The drawing gave a purpose to this unearthly hell.” Later in Stalag III he was able to draw with donated YMCA art supplies and was even able to send ideas for cartoons back to a Chicago magazine. He also met Tuskegee Airmen survivors.
We move next to the 1950s where McMahon has press credentials from Life Magazine as a reporter and cartoonist/artist. He’s in Mississippi to cover the Emmett Till trial, with copy and art. Mac’s daughter recounts her father’s emotions and doodles during the brief atrocity dangerously called a trial. A brief sentence sums up the disposition of the community: At the coffee shop door they (reporters) were surrounded, closely, by a few white male citizens, “You Northerners go back home and leave us Sumner folks alone.”
That trial and article showed McMahon “that art could effectuate social change.” In the next decade, the author takes her place around the family table, as seventh of nine children, growing up the 1960s. Conversation was lively with her journalist father and Irene, her mother, who was also an author. The turbulence of social justice protests during this time—women’s rights, worker’s rights, racial justice, gay rights, all were freely discussed. The McMahons encouraged the family to learn about world news, raise questions about politics and culture, all spurring Margaret to use her talent and carry on speaking out for change of inward and small-thinking injustices around the world. Franklin McMahon continued to capture the times in his art, and with his wife Irene, created award-winning films.
In 1995, at the age of seventy-five, McMahon participated in the Million Man march at the National Mall in Washington D.C. to protest systemic racism and call for revitalization of communities of color. Franklin McMahon passed in 2012 at the age of 90, having left a legacy of encouragement toward social justice. In his eulogy, Margot said, “With his art, he illumed awareness to nudge the world in a fairer direction, watched the change erase justice with presidential strokes of a pen and captured the protests again as people took to the streets with handmade signs to express their rights and wrongs.”
This powerful short book is filled with the late McMahon’s art and advice, the story of what it’s like to fight for a change both on the world stage and in our own neighborhoods. The book a good read for discussion; it’s an actionable book for families, for book clubs, and anyone who wants to see conscionable shifts in action and learn where to take a stand themselves.
Wisconsin Writers Association
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