Friday, March 10, 2017

Loving vs. Virginia

This is another one of my recent ILL requests- I have a huge stack of books from other libraries so I've been reading like mad to reduce the size of it. I was in a bit of a rut when it came to historical fiction/non-fiction history and this was a good one to pull me out of it.

The novel is told in free verse from the perspectives of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving. Mildred and Richard were a real-life couple who grew up together, fell in love as teens, and had children together. In the 1950's, people who had children together were expected to be married; however, because of the colors of their skin, they were forbidden to marry. They snuck away to Washington DC to marry, but not long after they arrived back home, they were arrested and jailed. The law against interracial marriages was intended to keep races from mixing and "[white] blood from being corrupted", but clearly the law did not accomplish that purpose since Richard and Mildred had three children together.

The landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 1967 ruled in favor of the couple, allowing them to return to their home state and also ending the ban on interracial marriages in other states.

The book has photographs from the era and illustrations depicting young Mildred and Richard. One thing that I loved about this book is that it does communicate the significance of the case in regard to civil rights, but it's still written as a romance. The illustrations definitely contribute to the mood:

Years ago when I was teaching college classes in Maryland, I had the privilege of teaching two older gentlemen who had faced the same predicament. Both of the men were black, and both had chosen to marry white women, even though at that time the state of Maryland did not recognize interracial marriages. I was shocked that I was talking to two people who had faced such a specific type of discrimination because in my lifetime, I had only encountered scenarios like that in history books. And although these men were older than I, they weren't ancient. I wasn't talking to some elderly, stooped over men whose grandparents had been slaves; I was talking to two middle-aged men. They weren't freedom riders or activists; they were just ordinary people who had also chosen to break a law that upheld an ignorant belief. 

Both of them were still happily married.

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