“The wheels of justice grind slowly.” These were the words spoken by American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Bernard Cohen to Mildred Loving during her appeal to have her marriage to Richard Loving validated by the state of Virginia from 1964-1967.
At the time, the law in Virginia prohibited interracial marriage, including the union of Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Loving, a woman of African-American and Native American decent.
This was the plotline for the “The Loving Story,” the third movie featured during the Grasselli Library and Breen Learning Center’s “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle” movie series.
Michelle Millet, director of the Grasselli Library and Breen Learning Center, applied for and received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History so Grasselli Library could host a Civil Rights film series during the month of February. Four films were screened on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in the Mackin Room of the library.
Each film was followed by a discussion led by an organization or individual from the JCU community. The series began on Feb. 4, featuring “The Abolitionists.” The African American Alliance led the discussion. On Feb. 11, the second film was “Freedom Riders,” and was followed with a discussion hosted by assistant professor of history Michael Bowen.
“The Loving Story” concluded with an interactive discussion led by associate professor of history and director of the Arrupe Scholars Program, Malia McAndrew.
The series came to an end this past Wednesday, Feb. 25 with “Slavery by Another Name,” which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Assistant Provost for Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer Terry Mills led the final discussion.
Grasselli Library’s outreach and student engagement librarian Amy Wainwright and Head of Research, Learning and Information Services Jaleh Fazelian co-coordinated the series. The duo sought out JCU faculty members who were experts in these areas to facilitate discussions. According to the Wainwright and Fazelian, there were between eight and 12 students at each screening.
According to Wainwright, regarding the series and its influence on students, “Our hope was that students would be able to make comparisons to current civil rights issues.”
As a United States historian specializing in modern U.S. history, McAndrew considers the civil rights issues and topics presented through this series to be a pivotal part of American history. “As a historian, how change happens in society, the different ways change can happen, laws regarding anything, looking at history can help determine change in the future,” said McAndrew.
In “The Loving Story,” Mildred and Richard Loving, seemingly simple people who wished to live a peaceful life with their families, fought for change in a state discrediting their love and marriage because it was between two people of different races. They waited for the “wheels of justice to grind.” In 1967, the United States Supreme Court overturned laws against interracial marriages during Loving v. Virginia.
McAndrew left students to ponder the question, “If Mildred Loving can start a revolution, why can’t you?”