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The Lovings : an intimate portrait

Call Number: 
770.9964 V748

In real life as well as in novels, plays and movies, there are love stories where two people often have to face obstacles, tragedies and are fortunate to reach a relatively happy ending:  Heloise and Abelard, Elizabeth and Robert Browning, Romeo and Juliet, and others. Modern times are not without problematic love stories, usually not for the two people involved, but for others: family, friends, neighbors and governments. So it was for Richard Loving, who was white, and Mildred Jeter, who was black, and lived in Virginia in the 1950s. They had grown up as neighbors, in a community where there was little racial discord and residents got together at drag races and other events. Richard and Mildred dated and then decided to get married, but had to go to Washington, D.C because of anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia. They lived in D.C. for a while, but never felt at home, and would frequently return to Virginia, defying a court order about the illegality of their marriage.

The acitivism of the civil rights movement in the 1960s prompted Mildred to write to Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General of the United States, who referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union. Two young lawyers, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkp took on the Loving's case, and brought a class action law suit to the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia, and Judge Bazile, who invoked God as the arbiter, having placed peoples of different races on different lands. Next legal action was with the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeal, which upheld the original ruling. The case eventually went to the United States Supreme Court in 1967.  "In a unanimous decision handed down on June 12, 1967, laws banning interracial marriage were deemed unconstitutional, overturning them in 16 states (although Alabama would only repeal its anti-miscegenation laws in 2000). Basing its decision on the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, the ruling read, “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state. These convictions must be reversed. It is so ordered.”"

At long last the Lovings could return home to Virginia and live a quiet, peaceful life in their home community. 

This new book is a compilation of the photographs taken by Grey Villet, a well known photographer who was sent by Life Magazine in 1965, to cover the Loving's story. The book is predominantly photographs, which speak truthfully and clearly, about the Lovings, their friends and families, the community, and the judiciary. Each section is preceded by an essay explaining what was taking place during different time periods; and there is a concluding statement from Mildred Loving, in 2007. Richard and Mildred Loving are gone, but have left a legacy in the laws of the United States. Their endurance over injustice and unfair treatment is a testament to their abiding love and devotion to each other. Photographer Grey Villet is gone, but his photographs are a documentation of a time and place in the United States, and of two people whose real life family name says everything--Loving.

For further reading:  Race, sex, and the freedom to marry: Loving v. Virginia and Loving v. Virginia: interracial marriage. In addition there is a documentary DVD 301.429 L9115 The Loving story   [videorecording], and a feature film dramatization: Loving DVD.