Comic books have inspired countless Hollywood blockbusters over the last 20 years, but even the most devoted comic book fan may not recognize just how influential the genre was more than a half century ago.

Comic books and the Civil Rights Movement may seem like an unlikely pairing, but History.com notes that a 1957 comic book titled “Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story” affected a generation of activists more than 50 years ago. The book, written by activist Alfred Hassler and illustrated by Sy Barry, highlighted the heroic efforts of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and promoted the merits of nonviolent protest.

A quarter million copies of the book were printed and distributed by churches and civil rights groups. Among the many individuals to credit the comic book were the late U.S. Congressman John Lewis, a widely respected civil rights activist who admitted reading the book as an 18-year-old.

History.com notes the book’s reach extended beyond the United States, ultimately inspiring anti-apartheid protesters in South Africa before it was banned by the South African government. 

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