Loving Vs. Virginia
"He puts his arm around me.
In the movie
When Esther gets kissed,
I let him kiss me.
It's a nice kiss--
not my first,
but the best--
soft and sweet."
In the early 1950s Mildred was a school girl and Richard held
down a job. Back then a lot of people didn't stay in school long
enough to graduate high school. Back then also rural people still
made most of their own fun. Mildred's family's home was a favorite
neighborhood gathering place, known for good food and lively music.
When Richard noticed that Mildred was someone he'd like to spend time
with, it took her awhile to figure out what was going on...
...much like so many other young people in first awkward and
tender courtships. Unfortunately it was not all that easy. Mildred
was black, Richard was white. George Wallace had declared that,
"segregationist is one who believes that it is in the best interests
of Negro and white to have a separate education and social order."
Sadly a lot of people agreed with him. In Mildred and Richard's home
state, Virginia, mixed race marriage was against the law.
The couple crossed over to Washington DC to wed. Back in
Virginia they woke up to cops shining flashlights at them.
"I never thought
I'd be in prison.
From high school
And that's only the beginning of their ordeal.
Patricia Hruby Powell is also the author of Josephine: The
Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker which I reviewed back in January.
With Loving Vs. Virginia she beautifully makes the difficult picture
book to YA transition. Her narrative, told in free verse, alternating
Mildred and Richard's voices, adds a vividly human dimension to a
legal case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Vintage
photographs and documents greatly enhance the book's authenticity.
I was shocked to learn how much longer the fight had to go on
after the 1967 ruling. Did you know that Alabama did not reverse its
anti-miscegenation law until 2000?
On a personal note, attitudes behind such laws were not unique to the
South. One of my very best high school friend's family experienced
death threats and rocks thrown through their windows. Her dad was
black and her mother was white. I was the only girl allowed to sleep
over her house. That was in Massachusetts in the suburbs of Boston.
My mother was friends with her parents. However, secretly she
thought they should not have brought a child into that situation. I
would reply that it's society that needs to change. I fully believed
it was a matter of when, not if. Mom, probably because she grew up in
the Jim Crow South, did not share my optimism.
A great big shout out goes out to all who worked and risked to get
those terrible laws overturned.
Sent from my iPod