Loving vs. Virginia

Written by Patricia Hruby Powell Shadra Strickland (illus.)
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Racial relations in the United States are fraught today, but segregation experienced by African Americans in the not-so-distant past was both harsh and often mandated by law. Race mixing—marriage and procreation between whites and blacks—was illegal in many states. Virginia was no different, and when the 1954 school desegregation law fanned the flames of opposition, county officials closed public schools rather than integrate.

However, it is hard to deny love. Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter, white and black teenagers, fall in love despite public disapproval and the county sheriffs’ vigilance. They marry in nearby Washington, DC, where mixed marriages are legal, but when the sheriff finds Millie and Richard together, they are jailed. The couple is sentenced to banishment from their Virginia home. They are referred to the ACLU in 1963, and Loving vs. Virginia becomes a test case of the 14th Amendment, leading to the overturn of anti-marriage laws nationwide.

Patricia Hruby Powell’s YA novel, Loving vs. Virginia, embraces the landmark civil rights case. It is also a beautifully portrayed love story written in free verse, interspersed with documents and images from the Civil Rights struggle. I’m not usually a fan of verse, but the award-winning Ms. Powell’s conversational style is both natural and dramatic, and she completely won me over. Shadra Strickland’s delicate illustrations also deserve admiring mention. 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the landmark Loving vs. Virginia case, and Ms. Powell’s eponymous book is a tremendous asset for bringing Millie and Richard Loving’s determined battle against injustice and prejudice to young and mature readers alike. Highly recommended.