Saint Mary’s screens civil rights documentary
Alex Winegar | Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The documentary “The Loving Story” played Tuesday night in the Vander Vennet Theatre at Saint Mary’s as part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration and Celebration Week.
The film features real footage of the interracial couple that challenged a Virginia law in a battle to legalize interracial marriage in the 1960s.
“The Loving Story” chronicles the trial of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple. Their case made it to the Supreme Court, and a unanimous vote made interracial marriage legal throughout the United States.
Jamie Wagman, assistant professor of History and Gender and Women’s studies, said even though the marriage was against Virginia law, it was not unique.
“In American history, every kind of union that could have happened in American history, happened,” Wagman said. “Black folks married white folks. Native Americans had relationships with black folks and white folks throughout time.
“So any kind of union that you could imagine, did happen. It was at specific moments in history in time these relationships began being examined, when people felt threatened.”
Mildred Loving’s relationship with the Civil Rights Movement intrigued Dionne Bremyer, professor of English. Loving did not have a strong political affiliation, and it became a more personal question for her, Bremyer said.
“That is what is so interesting about a case like this, because it is very personal who you love and decide to share your life with,” she said. “It didn’t necessarily make her a political figure, even though she does become one. It wasn’t necessarily about the politics so much as it was about real life.
“And I think that what is interesting about civil rights cases is very often they are just about people wanting to live their lives a certain way and that has very little to do with the large-scale political ramifications.”
Dionne Bremyer’s husband, Aaron Bremyer, director of the Writing Center, said Loving was nevertheless aware of what her and her husband’s efforts meant for the country more broadly.
“She seemed to recognize or come to recognize this as something important,” Aaron said. “‘We just want to love each other and go about our lives, but this would also be good for other people.’ There’s some consciousness of the larger issues at stake.”
The Bremyers, themselves an interracial couple, said they are fortunate that couples like the Lovings have gone before and that their families accept them fully, Aaron said.
“We are very fortunate to have family,” he said. “It would be naive to act like we are not aware of other people’s reactions, because other people are aware of it and comment on it.”
Aaron said his experience has been positive, which he tries to keep in the proper perspective.
“I think I’ve had it pretty easy, so I am grateful for that but also try to be aware of that all the time and raise consciousness and awareness,” he said. “To help people who struggle for a host of reasons — you know, issues of race, sexuality, class, whatever it may be.”
Dionne said she has noticed strange reactions but little animosity, when she and her husband interact with other people.
“People have been really good about it for the most part. We have people who stare occasionally, or thank us or say they voted for Obama, which I don’t know why that has to do with anything,” she said. “People will say odd things. It’s strange how people will react to us.”
The student group Sisters of Nefertiti sponsored the screening of “The Loving Story.”