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The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage

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For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.

This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state's laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents' love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court - and won!

40 pages, Hardcover

First published January 6, 2015

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Selina Alko

26 books27 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 370 reviews
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,835 followers
July 2, 2015
When the Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2015 that same-sex couples could marry in all fifty states, I found myself, like many parents of young children, in the position of trying to explain the ramifications to my offspring. Newly turned four, my daughter needed a bit of context. After all, as far as she was concerned gay people had always had the right to marry so what exactly was the big deal here? In times of change, my back up tends to be children’s books that discuss similar, but not identical, situations. And what book do I own that covers a court case involving the legality of people marrying? Why, none other than The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by creative couple Selina Alko and Sean Qualls. It’s almost too perfect that the book has come out the same year as this momentous court decision. Discussing the legal process, as well as the prejudices of the time, the book offers to parents like myself not just a window to the past, but a way of discussing present and future court cases that involve the personal lives of everyday people. Really, when you take all that into consideration, the fact that the book is also an amazing testament to the power of love itself . . . well, that’s just the icing on the cake.

In 1958 Richard Loving, a white man, fell in love with Mildred Jeter, a black/Native American woman. Residents of Virginia, they could not marry in their home state so they did so in Washington D.C. instead. Then they turned right around and went home to Virginia. Not long after they were interrupted in the night by a police invasion. They were charged with “unlawful cohabitation” and were told in no uncertain terms that if they were going to continue living together then they needed to leave Virginia. They did, but they also hired lawyers to plead their case. By 1967 the Lovings made it all the way to The Supreme Court where their lawyers read a prepared statement from Richard. It said, “Tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.” In a unanimous ruling, the laws restricting such marriages were struck down. The couple returned to Virginia, found a new house, and lived “happily (and legally) ever after.” An Author’s Note about her marriage to Sean Qualls (she is white and he is black) as well as a note about the art, Sources, and Suggestions for Further Reading appear at the end of the book.

“How do you sue someone?” Here’s a challenge. Explain the concept of suing the government to a four-year-old brain. To do so, you may have to explain a lot of connected concepts along the way. What is a lawyer? And a court? And, for that matter, why are the laws (and cops) sometimes wrong? So when I pick up a book like The Case for Loving as a parent, I’m desperately hoping on some level that the authors have figured out how to break down these complex questions into something small children can understand and possibly even accept. In the case of this book, the legal process is explained as simply as possible. “They wanted to return to Virginia for good, so they hired lawyers to help fight for what was right.” And then later, “It was time to take the Loving case all the way to The Supreme Court.” Now the book doesn’t explain what The Supreme Court was necessarily, and that’s where the art comes in. Much of the heavy lifting is done by the illustrations, which show the judges sitting in a row, allowing parents like myself the chance to explain their role. Here you will not find a deep explanation of the legal process, but at least it shows a process and allows you to fill in the gaps for the young and curious.

It was very interesting to me to see how Alko and Qualls handled the art in this book. I’ve often noticed that editors like to choose Sean as an artist when they want an illustrator that can offset some of the darker aspects of a work. For example, take Margarita Engle’s magnificently sordid Pura Belpre Medal winner The Poet Slave of Cuba. A tale of torture, gore, and hope, Qualls’ art managed to represent the darkness with a lighter touch, while never taking away from the important story at hand. In The Case for Loving he has scaled the story down a bit and given it a simpler edge. His characters are a bit broader and more cartoonlike than those in, say, Dizzy. This is due in part to Alko’s contributions. As they say in their “About the Art” section at the back of the book, Alko’s art is all about bold colors and Sean’s is about subtle layers of color and texture. Together, they alleviate the tension in different scenes. Moments that could be particularly frightening, as when the police burst into the Lovings’ bedroom to arrest them, are cast instead as simply dramatic. I noticed too that characters were much smaller in this book than they tend to be in Sean's others. It was interesting to note the moments when that illustrators made the faces of Richard and Virginia large. The page early in the book where Richard and Mildred look at one another over the book’s gutter pairs well with the page later in the book where their faces appear on posters behind bars against the words “Unlawful Cohabitation”. But aside from those two double spreads the family is small, often seen just outside their different respective homes. It seemed to be important to Qualls and Alko to show them as a family unit as often as possible.

Few books are perfect, and Loving has its off-kilter moments from time to time. For example, it describes darker skin tones in terms of food. That’s not a crime, of course, but you rarely hear white skin described as “white as aged cheese” or “the color of creamy mayonnaise” so why is dark colored skin always edible? In this book Mildred is “a creamy caramel” and she lives where people ranged from “the color of chamomile tea” to darker shades. A side issue has arisen concerning Mildred’s identification as Native American and whether or not the original case made more of her African-American roots because it would build a stronger case in court. This is a far bigger issue than a picture book could hope to encompass, though I would be interested in a middle grade or young adult nonfiction book on the topic that went into the subject in a little more depth.

Recently I read my kid another nonfiction picture book chronicling injustice called Drum Dream Girl by the aforementioned Margarita Engle. In that book a young girl isn’t allowed to drum because of her gender. My daughter was absolutely flabbergasted by the notion. When I read her The Case for Loving she was similarly baffled. And when, someday, someone writes a book about the landmark decision made by The Supreme Court to allow gay couples to wed, so too will some future child be just as floored by what seems completely normal to them. Until then, this is certainly a book written and published at just the right time. Informative and heartfelt all at once, it works beyond the immediate need. Context is not an easy thing to come by when we discuss complex subjects with our kids. It takes a book like this to give us the words we so desperately need. Many thanks then for that.

For ages 4-7.
Profile Image for Celeste_pewter.
593 reviews147 followers
February 10, 2015
A friend once sagely remarked to me that it it's important to have meaningful literature for younger kids, because it helps make a big difference in how they begin to view the world. They learn to be more open and more accepting, and eventually help pass that openess and acceptance on to future generations.

I've read many picture books that have fit that criteria over the years, but none which have struck a chord with me as much as The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Author Selina Alko shares the real-life story of the Loving family, an Afrian-American woman and a Caucasian man who fall in love and get married in 1958.

However, because of state laws in Virginia at the time, their relationship is considered a felony. Facing potential prison time, the couple is forced to leave Virginia, and make their home in Washington D.C. However, the couple decides to show that their love isn't wrong, and takes their case all the way to the Supreme Court - winning in a landmark decision.

Alko takes what is actually a very complex real-life story, and beatifully streamlines it for younger readers. She warmly shows the love that brings Richard and Mildred together, while also being careful to touch upon the tensions and the unfortunate historical precedent which dictated the laws designed to keep them apart.

The court case itself is also beautifully explained, with Alko quickly getting to the heart of the issue: that love is love, and these are just two people who want to prove to their family that their relationship is one to be proud of.

Alko also collaborated with husband Sean Qualls for the first time on the illustrations, jointly using paint and collage to tell Mildred and Richard's story. The illustrations are both bold and warm, showing both the genuine love between the couple, and the changing political landcape. The illustrations will definitely younger readers feel safe and comfortable, in what will likely be a thought-provoking topic.


Bottom line: The Case for Loving is just what we need in an environment that is seeking more diverse books. This is a book that helps readers of all ages understand just how far we have come in terms of diversity, and how it's often ordinary people with ordinary hopes, which change the landscape forever.

On a more personal note, as someone who is in an interracial relationship, reading this book is a touching, heartwarming reminder of the people who have fought for me, so I can have the freedoms that I do today. I am deeply thankful to both the Lovings, and to Selina and Sean, for giving me this wonderful reminder of how lucky I am.
Profile Image for Katherine.
528 reviews5 followers
August 10, 2017
Children's books are not well-served by omitting or straight-up changing history. There's a few inaccuracies that I'm assuming are intentional. There's little discussion of how local law enforcement stalked the couple, and little discussion of their stays in jail which they endured. No mention of the drives Richard made in order to have a job and live somewhere where his marriage would be legal. The book makes a cute note of how after the couple was married, they couldn't wait to start a family (when, in reality, Mildred's pregnancy and Richard's brief abandonment were the reason why they wanted to get married in the first place). Mildred is misidentified as part Cherokee, when she identified as Rappahannock. She also did not identify as black - for more information on that complicated issue, see Debbie Reese's post. This coupled with the other issues makes me think that the book was not well-researched, or that research was not well-represented in the final product. History is complicated, and children deserve to hear about the complicated parts.
Profile Image for Henry Martin.
Author 102 books151 followers
February 2, 2015
An important nonfiction book for young readers.

Through the simple storytelling and child-like illustrations, young readers are introduced to the Loving family, an interracial couple whose right to marry was denied in Virginia so they wedded in DC. Shortly after their return home, they were arrested for being in an 'unlawful cohabitation" and were told to leave Virginia if they wanted to remain married.
They moved to DC, but eventually took their case all the way to the US Supreme Court and won. Virginia had to change its laws, and the Lovings' victory paved the way for future interracial marriages.

The author also uses the book platform to make a case for sexual orientation inequality as she points out that many states have yet to recognize same sex marriages.

Being in an interracial marriage myself, this book allowed me to have a discussion with my children about the lack of common sense in society, and about the important changes achieved over the past six decades.
Profile Image for Abby Johnson.
3,373 reviews319 followers
February 13, 2015
I mean... I guess I wonder who is going to read this book. I love the art. I think it's important for kids to know that there was a time when interracial marriage was illegal (hopefully that is unthinkable to them now). But I just wonder if the elementary school kids this book is aimed at will actually read (or care about) a book about marriage. Prove me wrong! Tell me your elementary students are picking up this book and relating to it and it's making them think! I did buy it for our collection because I definitely want folks to have access to it.
Profile Image for Christina.
13 reviews
November 30, 2015
In the author note, Selina Alko makes the case that the story of the Lovings is as important in the heritage of her children as those of their parents and grandparents and extended family. Similar reasoning led me to pick up this book when I saw it at my local library and bring it home to share with my children, who are the product of an interracial marriage and who also have grandparents with an interracial marriage.

At home we are ourselves, the differences in the tones of our skin and texture of our hair no more important than the freckles and dimples we may or may not have. Society places more importance on these differences, however, so it has been important for us to discuss the idea of race and the current and historical implications. Visual imagery is especially powerful for children, so one of our favorite ways to explore these issues is through books. Somehow, seeing the words in print and illustrated to depict people who are relatable transforms our discussions from abstract to concrete.

Such was our experience when trying to explain that it wasn't so long ago at all that our marriage would have been illegal in some parts of the country. The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage was everything I hoped it would be. The story provided enough facts to satisfy my 8 year old daughter, and was simple enough to engage my 5 year old son. The images were a beautiful blend of illustrations and collage and gave us the opportunity to discuss the emotions the characters might have been feeling. We also appreciated the backstory of how this book came to be, as well as the list of references (as my daughter is beginning to take an interest in researching) and the suggestions for further reading.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
408 reviews66 followers
March 3, 2017
I read this at my library. I like this book, I love the art and this story is really good.
Profile Image for April.
382 reviews15 followers
February 7, 2018
It blows my mind to think that it was illegal to marry someone outside of your race in America in my parent's lifetime. This is a moving and educational story of one interracial family's fight to make their marriage legal in their home state in the 1960s.
Profile Image for Tasha.
4,117 reviews109 followers
February 26, 2015
This nonfiction picture book tells of a history that will surprise modern American children. It is the story of love and one family that was brave enough to stand up to a racist law. Mildred and Richard Loving fell in love in the small town of Central Point, Virginia. They had different colored skin and so they were not allowed to get legally married in Virginia. So they crossed state lines into Washington, DC and got married there. When they returned to Virginia though, they were arrested for violating the state law against interracial marriage. The two moved to Washington DC and raised their children there. Things started to change in the 1960s and the Lovings took their case all the way to the Supreme Court to win the right to marry one another in the state of Virginia.

This book is strikingly beautiful with a rich warmth that flows directly from the story and art. The author and illustrator are a husband wife team who are also interracial. Their passion for this subject shines on the page. Alko explains that subject matter with a vibrancy, offering information on the laws in a way that is suitable for small children. The drama of the arrest is also clearly captured, exposing the ludicrous law to today’s perspective.

The art of the book was done by both Qualls and Alko. Their styles marry into a beautiful richness that fills the pages. They are filled will playful hearts and flowers that add a lighter note to the images. At the same time they have detailed paintings filled with texture and power at their center.
The combination of both has created a stunning beauty of collage and painting.
An important piece of our civil rights history as a nation, this picture book documents one family willing to take up the fight for themselves and others. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Profile Image for Lori Irvine.
29 reviews
June 17, 2016
I added this book to this text set because it tells the true story of Richard and Mildred loving, a biracial (interracial) couple who were not allowed to get married to each other because of their race in the year 1958. It explains the adversity this young couple lived through and even their arrest for “unlawful cohabitation.” The story is written in rhyming verse with illustrations, which were a collaborative effort for the husband and wife author/illustrators. This couple is also biracial and felt the story needed to be retold to “twenty-first-century eyes,” which have never experienced the pre-Civil Rights injustices.
I felt a text to world connection with this text in its relation to the recent controversy with marriage rights for same-sex couples. What was a crime because of race was not too long ago illegal because of sex. Our population continues to slowly evolve to acceptance of all humans no matter what. It is a very slow evolution and continues to cause controversy.

1. Remembering- When did this story take place?
2. Understanding- Summarize how the Lovings were able to get married and finally return to their home in Virginia.
3. Applying- What would have happened if the Lovings wanted to get married where you live? In 1958? Now?
4. Analyzing- Why do you think Richard and Mildred decided to take their case to court? Why do you think they went all the way to the Supreme Court?
5. Evaluating- What choice would you have made if it were you? Or your parents? Would you take your case to court?
6. Creating- What inferences can you make about the world in 1958 and the 1960s compared to the world now?
1,351 reviews10 followers
March 1, 2015
I don't know of any picture books that cover this important subject (interracial marriage at a time before the Supreme Court ruled on "Loving v. Virginia). My favorite part of this book is that it is not about an ISSUE, as much as a story about real people who fought the law that could have sent them to jail, depending on where they lived. How wonderful that this real couple's last name was Loving (thus giving the title a double meaning).

Alko's text is straightforward and undramatic, with perfect details that show both the personalities and character of Richard and Mildred, and in relatively few words, show their journey from falling in love to creating a family together to having to leave their home state to taking on the Supreme Court, and winning.

There's also an author's note, words about the art, sources, and suggestions for further reading, so teachers and parents can expand the discussion.
Profile Image for Holly Mueller.
2,231 reviews
June 25, 2015
I didn't realize before I read this book that the title is a play on words. Before 1967 interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia and sixteen other states, so when Richard(white)and Mildred Loving (African American and Cherokee) returned to their home state of Virginia after marrying in Washington, D.C., they were dramatically arrested in the middle of the night and locked up in jail. They were told they must return to Washington, D.C. if they wanted to remain married, so they did and had three children there. However, they missed home and family, so they decided to fight the law. They won! Interesting Author's Note: a husband and wife team, also an interracial couple, wrote and illustrated the book together. I loved the art - paint and collage. Selina Alko says, when explaining their different styles, "Just like a marriage is the joining of two people, the illustrations for this book could not be achieved individually, but only by Sean and me working together."
Profile Image for Linda .
3,780 reviews43 followers
August 26, 2015
This story happened in my lifetime, hard to believe that once it was unlawful to marry someone of a different race. And just about the time I was getting married. Selina Alko and Sean Qualls are married and married in an interracial marriage, say they waited for the right story for their first book, and this is a great one. They lived in Virginia, one of five states still making this marriage unlawful, so they moved to Washington D.C. and married. But they missed their home; it was too busy in D.C. and they took the case to court, and the Supreme Court sided with them. The illustrations are colorful with background work splashed with creative collage work. And the back matter is already out of date, happily, because they share hopes that all couples obtain the right to marry whom they love, and this past summer, the Supreme Court did rule for same sex marriage too, another victory for love.
Profile Image for Mary Ann.
1,485 reviews279 followers
March 15, 2015
There are so many different ways into sharing The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. The story centers around Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple who challenged Virginia's laws forbidding interracial marriages and took their case all the way to the Supreme Court.

You might approach it as a story of two people who stand up and fight for what they think is right--a book about courage, civil rights and fighting for change. Or you might see it as a way to start talking about race with young children, and the struggles one family went through not so long ago. Whichever you choose, this picture book makes a wonderful jumping off point for talking with kids about things that really matter.

See my full review: Great Kid Books
Profile Image for Rina Lopez.
21 reviews
June 8, 2016
The case for love the fight for interracial marriage is a story that tell the realistic some couple has to deal. In this story the characters were white and black and in the state of Virginia the marriage was "unlawful cohabitation." The was again the law. The author explain that she married an African- American and she couldn't imagine that her marriage in the 1967 was not acceptable by the governments. This is a realist contemporary fiction book, because in the present couple of the same- sex are fight for the right to legal marriage. One interesting things a find about the illustration is that author husband and her work together in the illustration of the book. They both use watercolor and collage. However, Selina explains that her husband tends to be more thought and emotional. This book is age range for 4 to 8 and preschooler to 3 grades.
Profile Image for Cynthia Daniels.
76 reviews1 follower
October 17, 2016
Through simple explanations and simple drawings, the author explains how people of different races (specifically Caucasian and African-Americans were not allowed to marry in the early 20th century. The last thing that mattered was that the couple was very much in love and wanted to start a family. Richard Loving was arrested and thrown in jail for marrying his African American sweetheart in the state of Virginia. This book could be shared with children who may be discussing the rights we have as Americans during a Social Studies lesson in their classroom. This book could be crucial to help students understand just how far our country has come in a few years making changes to improve the lives of people by changing our country's laws. The illustrations are delightful and the book is tastefully done. I appreciate having a book such as this one to share with elementary students.
6 reviews
April 17, 2017
This book is an inspirational, biography book that tells the great story of the Lovings and their fight for marriage equality. It goes on to describe their journey through their lives and the court to make their marriage legal. This book would be perfect for students of all ages if the goal was to inform them about the difficulties of equality before segregation laws came into place. It would even be a good book to lead into a discussion about the inequalities that still exist in the world today. I would consider this a WOW book because of a personal connection I had while reading it. An uncle of mine married a black woman and while our family is very accepting of it, there have been times where others are not. This book made me really consider how hard it was for my aunt and uncle to handle disapprovals when they would go out somewhere.
Profile Image for Chris.
974 reviews14 followers
April 8, 2017
This book is a SIX star book! Selina Alko writes the story perfectly. It couldn't have been told better, or illustrated more lovingly or well. Because this book is shelved in our library in the nonfiction section instead of the picture books, I almost missed it. It was because of the recent movie about the Lovings that it jumped out at me. Thanks goodness. I loved it. I want to own it. I want to share it with every 8, 9, 10 11, 55, or 88 year old I see. This is the story of the two people who fought for nine years to have their interracial marriage legal in their home state of Virginia. It wasn't until 1967 ... 1967!!! ... that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of interracial marriage....because of this shy, loving pair who only wanted to be able to live as a married couple. Superbly told story by a interracial couple - terrifically!
Profile Image for Samantha.
4,985 reviews58 followers
July 18, 2015
The true story of the Loving family is told here; the legality of their interracial marriage made its way all the way to the Supreme Court!

I liked the writing style. It helped readers unfamiliar with the case understand the historical atmosphere and takes a complex subject and breaks it down to its basic points so that children can grasp the problem and celebrate the solution.

Mixed media artwork really helps support the subject of a blended family. Back matter includes an author's note, info about the art, sources, and suggestions for further reading.

Recommended for PreK-5+. This book excels at what it does making it shareable for a wide age range.

Profile Image for Liz Murray.
618 reviews6 followers
March 23, 2017
A beautifully illustrated introduction to the story of the people behind Loving versus Virginia-the Supreme Court decision that outlawed miscegenation laws. It came out in 2015 so a bit before the movie, Loving, but this is a good book to refer back to as it picks up the main points of the life story of Richard and Mildred Loving. The illustrations are made up of different media, including come 'cut-and-paste' techniques. The story is well synthesized for younger audiences, and also for older audiences as it can be read in one go. Older audiences would enjoy looking at all the details on the pages (I'm sure young ones would too).
Highly recommended for all classes-K and up.
17 reviews
April 24, 2017
this book is a must read to younger children because it talks about how difficult it was for interracial marriage in the 1950's because of segregation separating African Americans the whites. it also teaches them a little history about segregation in a way that they could understand it at a young age. this book shows children in my opinion never stop fighting for what you believe in no matter how difficult it may get sometimes just keep pushing because there will be brighter days
Profile Image for ReadingWench.
1,852 reviews12 followers
May 19, 2015
This is a fairly deep book. Although it is a AR 4.3, I do believe older kids could benefit from this book in learning history.

This book would be fantastic for Black History Month.

This book was published in 2015. There are many similarities in the unlawful marriages of interracial couples of yesterday and today's fight for gay and lesbian's to marry.

AR 4.3
Profile Image for Mary.
2,716 reviews11 followers
August 31, 2015
Nonfiction picture book chronicling the Loving vs. Virginia court case allowing interracial marriage throughout the country. Although this may be hard for young people to accept that this law was once necessary, its straightforward narrative accurately reflects the time and will still be relevant for discussions about prejudice.
Profile Image for Beverly.
3,302 reviews19 followers
January 20, 2016
Reviewed for the Mock Caldecott Awards. This is a wonderful book. The story itself is so beautifully told and at the back you find out that it's based on the life of the author and illustrators of the book. An interracial couple who want to be married but have to move to a state that allows blacks and whites to become man and wife.
Profile Image for Laura McLoughlin.
803 reviews6 followers
September 16, 2016
A great overview of the Loving vs. Virginia case. The illustrations were very nice. I also liked the additional information in the back of the book. I thought this book is geared towards kids slightly older than my almost 5 year old, but will happily re-check it out from the library in a year or 2.
Profile Image for Beth.
2,935 reviews199 followers
August 13, 2017
A book many people will undoubtedly draw comparisons to the present day. An incredibly timely story. Which makes you wonder: how will history judge us based on the current fight for marriage equality?
Profile Image for Wendy.
150 reviews1 follower
April 20, 2016
Written for children but every adult should read. So well done!
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