Several months ago I watched the extremely well-acted “Loving,” which told the sad tale of a couple in violation of Virginia’s anti-miscegeny laws. Many may no longer know what this word means as it has rightly become a relic of the past. But in 1958, when Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving decided to marry, the state of Virginia forbade it because she was black and he was white.
So the couple traveled to Washington, DC to wed. They returned home to live, but were forced out as they violated this ugly Virginia law.
This federal and state push and pull came to mind with Jeff Session’s rescinding of the Cole Memorandum. The Loving case, which went to the Supreme Court, enforced federal law at the state level.
I cannot recall whether Loving v. United States was part of the exhibition at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, but I’m positive it must be, as there might be no better place to learn about the Civil Rights movement.
That the museum is built into the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, tells you something essential about it: It’s truly interactive, taking you into the struggle of black Americans, beginning from the slave trade through today. The emotional pinnacle is watching King deliver his final speech, “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” just before turning the corner to the room where he spent his final days, at the threshold of the balcony where he was shot.
Educators: If you’re considering school trips farther afield, put this one at the top of your list.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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