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The Loving Story


Film & Theme

The Strategy of Nonviolence: The Loving Story

Both grassroots protest and working for change through the courts were nonviolent strategies essential to the civil rights movement. The case of Loving v. Virginia, in which the Supreme Court overturned state bans on interracial marriage, highlights the central role of litigation in securing civil rights victories.

In 1958, Mildred and Richard Loving had been married only two weeks, when flashlight-wielding policemen invaded their bedroom in the middle of the night and arrested them for violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act. Richard was white and Mildred was part African American and part Cherokee. In this clip you will be introduced to the couple and their community, their arrest and detention, and the effect of segregation laws on their lives.

Although the couple decided to leave the state and move to Washington D.C., they were not content to accept their situation. In 1963, they engaged lawyers affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union to appeal their conviction. For several years, the Loving case moved from court to court, making its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was there, on June 12, 1967, in a precedent-setting decision, that the Court ordered Virginia and sixteen other states to overturn their bans on interracial marriage.

The Loving Story. 7:39-9:15  

Questions for class discussion

  • How did the couple break the law?
  • What was the justification for the laws they broke?
  • How did the couple view their actions?
  • What do you think made these two individuals capable of playing a pivotal role in the pursuit of justice?


Scholarly Essay

Background Essays for the Teacher

More Resources

For Teachers

Explore Created Equal in the Classroom:

- Equality Under the Law
- The Power of the Individual
- The Strategy of Nonviolence

Community Programs

The NEH Created Equal project uses the power of documentary films to encourage public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in America.

Changing America Exhibit

Find a "Changing America" exhibit in your community.