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Series Presentation To Address Loving ‘Equally’

Feb. 14, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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The Newton Gresham Library will showcase love and its historic struggles through its third "Created Equal" series presentation on Tuesday (Feb. 18), when associate professor of history Jeffrey Littlejohn will screen and discuss the HBO Documentary film “The Loving Story.”

"‘The Loving Story’—Breaking the Law for Love" will be presented from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Huntsville Public Library.

The film revisits what it calls “a Supreme Court ruling that changed the course of history”—Loving v. Virginia—a case that fought Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, which was created in 1924 to prevent miscegenation, or the interracial coupling and (producing) children.

Richard Loving, a white man, and his wife Mildred, an African American woman, from whom the case originated, were sentenced to one year in prison after marrying in 1958.

When the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, all race-based legal restrictions on marriage came to an end.

The Loving Story

Littlejohn, who will lead an open discussion following the film, said he believes the film will provide many avenues of discussion, from the legal techniques the Lovings pursued to why the Racial Integrity Act was created.

“I’m interested in the students and community becoming familiar with what is probably a lesser-known case and a case that a lot of people know very little about but it one of the key mechanisms by which members of the white elite who ran the government kept whites and blacks from interacting, by legally barring them from marrying,” he said. “I think that will spar some interesting discussion.”

In addition, Littlejohn said the film’s presentation is timely in connecting the case with the recent announcement by the Virginia attorney general and same-sex marriage cases there.

“I’m excited about this because of what’s going on in Virginia right now with the attorney general opposing Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage and, in fact, in his announcement that he would oppose that ban in court, that he would side with the two couples challenging the ban in court and against the state,” Littlejohn said. “In that announcement he actually referenced the Loving case. The two cases are legally similar, I think; obviously, there are a lot of differences, but they are both cases of discrimination.

The “‘Created Equal:’ America’s Civil Rights Struggle” series was designed to explore the history of civil rights and the changing meanings of freedom and equality in America.

“I teach a book called Created Equal in my intro-level class, and I think the series draws attention to racial inequities in the history of our society but also the ideals upon which our society is based,” Littlejohn said. “There is an attempt by some people to reconcile the ideal and the inequality, to make things equal, and that’s what I think the series is about—those people who challenged inequality and tried to make the United States live up to its ideals.”

The final program will be “'Slavery by Another Name:' Black Labor Abuse,” hosted by Bernadette Pruitt on Feb. 26.

The free, public events were made possible by a National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History grants.

For more information, contact Erin Cassidy, NGL web services librarian and “Created Equal” grant coordinator at SHSU, at 936.294.4567.

 

 

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