Loving vs. Virginia: a Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case
Patricia Hruby Powell
Shadra Strickland, Illustrator
Chronicle, January, 2017 260 pgs.
Narrative Poetry/Historical Fiction
Veteran author, Powell, tells the story of this landmark case, ruling that prohibiting people of different races is unconstitutional by the vehicle of lyrical and narrative poems. Through two points of view the reader traces the romance, courtship, marriage, and early family life of Richard and Mildred Loving. They grew up in a neighborhood where the races mixed and were friends, even though the children went to different school in their rural Virginia county. After marriage and the birth of their first baby, They are arrested in the middle of the night and hauled off to jail for being in a mixed-race marriage, which was unlawful in about half of the states in America in the 1950's. The Lovings had to move to Washington DC and were not allowed to live in the area they grew up in and where both of their families currently resided. Mildred, especially suffered. Being a young mother with a growing family (eventually the couple had three children) and a country-girl at heart, living alone in the big city was torture to her. Moreover, Richard had a very long commute back to his job in Virginia, costing both money and time spent with his family. Finally young and hungry Civil Rights lawyers took on the case and the process began, finally ending in the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land determined on June 12,1967 that men and women should be able to chose their own marriage partners, regardless of race. This case was not just important in so far as bringing families such as the Lovings together, but served as a victory towards Civil Rights and equality for all.
It is amazing to me to think that in my lifetime someone could be arrested in the United States for marrying someone of a different race. This law was on the books in many US states until merely fifty years ago. The path of desegregation and civil rights for all Americans has been long and bumpy and, as recent events in the news has shown, we are not to the finish line yet. Powell offers a beautifully written account of the events leading up to this historic ruling. Her poems are carefully and expertly crafted. They help to add depth and richness to the story, which moves along in an engaging fashion. Richard and Mildred Loving are regular folks with whom readers will identify and feel their struggles. Throughout the narrative photos, facts, quotes, and official documents lend authentication to the events, reminding the reader that this is based on real events. Powell backs up her story with extensive source notes and a time line connecting the Loving's story to the overall civil rights struggles of the time. From the introductory page, featuring a moving poem by Langston Hughes to the end note, telling the reader how the lives of our heroes ended, this book is a treasure. It is stunningly designed and is a beautiful partnership of words and images. Perhaps because of the insertion of factual information and images within a Civil Rights story, I was reminded of Revolution by Debbie Wiles, which was one of my favorite books of 2014. Illustrations, created by Shadra Strickland, reflect the simple color palate of the design and are appropriate to the story. My only complaint is that I would have liked to see an actual photo of the Lovings, which for some strange reason was not included in this visual package. Luckily, google images didn't let me down and my curiosity was satisfied. Great text, thoughtful design, and classroom and curriculum connections make this book a winner.