Thursday, March 31, 2016

Richard and Mildred: A Loving Story

I was recently alerted by a friend of the release date of yet another film I've been highly anticipating. This time around it's Loving, the true tale of Richard and Mildred Loving, married parents of two sons and a daughter. In 1958 the Lovings, an interracial couple, traveled to Washington DC to get married, returning to their native environs of rural Virginia to enjoy socializing with friends and family, attend weekend drag races and raise their three children until the authorities intervened to split them up, citing a state law making marriage between blacks and whites illegal. Although sentenced to a year in jail, this was suspended for 25 years on the condition that they leave their home state. The defiant Richard and Mildred, having resettled in Washington, DC, continually snuck back for visits with family and friends until getting caught. The homesick Lovings' desire to live their lives in Caroline County led them to seek the assistance of Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, who referred them to the ACLU. ACLU attorneys helped wage a nine-year battle to legalize their nine-year marriage and the determined couple became victorious, when on June 12, 1967, the US Supreme Court validated their union and made interracial marriage legal in the states where it had previously been forbidden. Tragically, Mildred was widowed in 1975 when Richard was killed in a car accident in which she was injured. Mrs. Loving never remarried and remained devoted to her husband's memory until her 2008 death, a powerful and steadfast testament to two folks who never set out to make history, just to be happy, in love and at home with each other.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Free State of Jones: The Rebellious Newton Knight

I was leaving a less-than-stellar movie recently, when I was immediately cheered up by seeing the poster for The Free State of Jones, set to be released this May. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, as I've read one of the two books on which this film is based. The story of Newton Knight, of Jones County, Mississippi is an incredible one of a man waging guerilla warfare against the then-powerful Confederacy, made all the more astounding because this man was one of them. Newton Knight was a Confederate soldier who reluctantly joined up so as not to be conscripted away from his friends. Not long after, however, he deserted and proceeded to wreak havoc on a system he'd always considered unjust. Hiding in the swamps, he proclaimed his native area Free State of Jones, and fighting along with runaway slaves, farmers and former soldiers, he worked to undermine those who would foment grave crimes against humanity and exploit those working to make a basic living. In the midst of his heroic deeds, Mr. Knight,  although already married to Serena, with kids of their own, formed a common-law marriage with Rachel, one of his grandfather's former slaves, living openly with her and their children, a fairly revolutionary act at the time. Upon Rachel's untimely death in 1899  "Capt" Knight as he became known, insisted on having her buried in his family plot, where he lies next to her. Through his adult life, Newton Knight worked alongside those suffering from the deepest oppression to achieve harmony and bring about a more ideal America that we still struggle towards today.