Film & Theme
The Power of the Individual: The Loving Story
Mildred and Richard Loving began their struggle for justice for the most personal of reasons.
Mildred, who was part black and part Cherokee, and Richard, who was white, grew up in rural Caroline County, Virginia, where blacks and whites worked and socialized in the same community with relatively little racial tension. In 1958, although interracial marriage was illegal in twenty-one states, including Virginia, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter married in Washington, D.C., and returned home. Soon after, they were arrested, tried, and convicted of violating the law. To avoid a one-year prison sentence, they agreed to move to Washington, D.C., far from family and friends.
In this clip, you will learn how Mildred felt about her situation and how she reached out for help. In June 1963, at the suggestion of a cousin, she decided to write to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy explaining her problem. Her request occurred just as the civil rights movement was becoming national news. Kennedy wrote back suggesting she contact the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Within a few months, two young lawyers were assigned to the Lovings’ case, which would make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Loving Story. 23:38-34:46
Questions for class discussion
- Why did Mildred write to Robert Kennedy?
- How does the Lovings’ story differ from the others in this series?
- What was Mildred’s relationship to the larger civil rights movement?
- What do you think made these two individuals capable of playing a pivotal role in the pursuit of justice?
Background Essays for the Teacher
- Loving v. Virginia article from Encyclopedia Virginia
- The Right to Love
- Civil Rights Movement Major Events and Legacies