Loving vs Virginia:
A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case
by Patricia Hruby Powell ill by Shadra Strickland
Patricia Hruby Powell brilliantly examines events leading up to the groundbreaking civil rights case legalizing marriage between races. This account of two teenagers, Mildred Jeter (African American and Cherokee) and Richard Loving (white) who fell in love and married, defying Virginia law, offers a heartrending portrayal of this historic breakthrough. The free verse format, using the alternating voices of Mildred and Richard effectively draws readers into understanding and appreciating this young couple’s struggle to overcome discrimination.
Inevitably Mildred and Richard were attracted to each other, fell in love, and desired to marry. Since interracial marriage was illegal in the state of Virginia they traveled to Washington, D.C. to legally solemnize their vows. Then they returned home to start a life together as man and wife. What follows were years of constant harassment, arrests, and legal entanglements for the young couple. Eventually they determined to pursue legal recourse. Their case reached the U. S. Supreme Court which in 1967 unanimously overturned the earlier Virginia convictions.
Powell has framed her narrative within the timeline of civil right history with details which are poignant and personal.
The text is supported with copies of original documents, photographs, and quotations from key participants in the ongoing legal battle.
However it is the heartfelt and personal lives of two people which bring the story into focus. I was impressed with the strength and support of Mildred's and Richard’s families over the intervening years. The couple was able to endure years of persecution because of love: love for each other, love from extended family, and love for justice and equality.
Enriched with Shadra Strickland's illustrations and solid back matter, this sterling historical fiction will resonate with readers.