Books And More

A Fight for the Right to Love

Illustrator Shadra Strickland talks with TFK about her work on a new book about the civil rights case Loving Vs. Virginia

January 10, 2017

Shadra Strickland illustrated a new book about an historic civil rights court case.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of a famous U.S. Supreme Court case titled Loving vs. Virginia. In 1924, a law banning interracial marriage called the Racial Integrity Act of Virginia was set in place. Yet this did not stop a couple named Mildred and Richard Loving from fighting for their right to be together. They along with many others worked to change this law. In 1967, the Supreme Court decision overturned that law and allowed people of different races to marry.

The new book Loving Vs. Virginia tells the story of the Lovings, and the legal struggle that made history. The book was written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Shadra Strickland. The story is mostly in verse format and is told from the perspectives of both Mildred and Richard. TFK sat down with Strickland to chat about her illustrations.


Could you tell us a little about your background?


I’ve been an artist since I was a kid. I was an only child and I spent a lot of time drawing and telling stories. My mother was an educator, so I’ve had a lifelong love of learning and knowledge.


Where did you get your inspiration for the illustrations in this book?

 The 1959 protest against integration in Little Rock, Arkansas is included in the book.

The 1959 protest against integration in Little Rock, Arkansas is included in the book.


From the story. I read the manuscript as soon as I was offered the project. I loved [author] Patricia’s telling of it. There was something so gentle and humanizing in the way she told the story. I also had to do research. I watched every documentary that I could get my hands on about the Lovings. I looked closely at the photojournalism of Grey Villet, who followed the Lovings and documented their journey. The other part of my task was trying put myself in [the Loving’s] shoes. I thought about my mother who grew up during that time period, and my family in Georgia.


What is your favorite illustration in Loving Vs. Virginia, and why?


There’s a scene at a drive-in that’s my favorite. Drawing cars is so difficult, but I love the shape of these old, vintage vehicles and their roundness. I drew this illustration about eight times before I got what I wanted because it was so hard. That’s the reason it’s my favorite one.


Why do you believe that it is important to teach students about our history from a young age?


It’s a part of our history. History isn’t tidy all the time. We’ve had our fights for equality, and continue to fight for equality. Sometimes we have to fight for those things that we believe in and that we should automatically have. It’s great to have these conversations and examine our history so that we don’t repeat a lot of the mistakes made in the past. Using champions of civil rights and their stories is a great way to encourage and empower children as they’re faced with some of the issues in their own lives.

Loving vs. Virginia combines poetry, illustrations, and real-life photographs.

Loving vs. Virginia combines poetry, illustrations, and real-life photographs.


Do you believe that this book can serve as an inspiration to help others fight an injustice? If so, how?


People see themselves through stories in whatever way they need to. It is very important for young people to read books like these where we see regular people who, in some cases, have very little power to stand up for themselves and fight a greater system.


What do you hope that kids will take away from the book?


Outside of the legal parts and the struggle and the fight, I think it’s really a simple love story. It’s about two people who loved each other, and wanted to live their lives together on their own terms. We all feel ordinary in many cases in our lives, so it’s empowering to read about other normal people who were able to find great courage and overcome challenges in life.

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