Richard and Mildred Loving are widely recognized as revolutionaries of social change, responsible for the landmark civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia, which led to the abolition of state laws forbidding mixed-race marriage in America. The Lovings’ act of resistance is often (rightly) viewed as radical, but few scholars have focused specifically on Mildred Loving in particular as a revolutionary figure, because she was soft-spoken and reserved. This paper argues that in her quietness, Loving engaged in a deliberate form of resistance: She fought for her inalienable rights without ever raising her voice. With the assistance of Kevin Quashie’s The Sovereignty of Quiet and Tina Campt’s Listening to Images, this paper examines Mildred Loving as embodying an alternative form of Black activism. Ultimately, the paper demonstrates that Mildred Loving’s political success was a result of her commitment to quiet activism. Loving’s quiet resistance is equally—if not more—productive than larger, louder forms of resistance to white supremacy and racism in America, and this form of resistance can be translated for use in our current moment where loud acts of protest often seem like the most effective option for activism and engagement.

The case is often described as a love story. In June of 1958, in Washington, DC, Mildred Jeter married Richard Loving. Though interracial marriage was illegal in their home state of Virginia, Mildred (who was a woman of color) and Richard (who was white) believed that marrying outside the state would legalize their union, hoping that their marriage would remain legal when they returned home to Caroline County. Five weeks later, the Lovings were arrested in the middle of the night; police broke into their home and handcuffed them, citing the crime of interracial marriage. Though Mildred remembered pointing to the framed marriage certificate above their bed, police insisted that their interracial marriage broke the state anti-miscegenation law.1 Their marriage was seen as illegal, and Judge Bazile of the Caroline County Circuit Court prohibited them from living together in the state, forbidding the Lovings from returning to Virginia together for at least 25 years. The couple was forced to leave their home and family in rural Virginia and take their two young children to adapt to city life in Washington, DC.2

Though miscegenation laws remained in place in 24 states, Mildred and Richard were dissatisfied with their sentence; they believed in their right to marriage and desperately wanted to live close to their family in Virginia.3 Thus began a legal battle that lasted until June 1967. Though they remained in Washington for a couple of years, Mildred grew frustrated with their isolation in the city; she was unused to the noise and pace of city life and missed her extended family. She sought help with their legal case, taking it upon herself to write to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who then directed her to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Two young public defenders, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, took the Lovings’ case, and they sued the state of Virginia for denying the Lovings the constitutional right to marriage. On June 12, 1967, the Lovings won their case against the state of Virginia; the court determined that the 1924 Racial Integrity Act of Virginia was unconstitutional, a monumental ruling that made interracial marriages legal throughout the United States for the first time in its history.4

In this paper, I argue that Mildred Loving in particular was a quiet, yet deliberate activist throughout the Loving v. Virginia case, contrary to the popular construction of her as passively political and mostly silent. I contend that the kind of quiet activism she embodied is a vital form of protest in the continued fight for Black civil rights in America, and that it can be observed in many instances of Black resistance in the early 20th century. I trace the role of quiet activism through a continuum of these events, focusing primarily on the role of photographs, their sonic possibilities, and the echoes they continue to produce. The haunting images from the 1917 Silent March in New York City, the body of Emmett Till in 1955, the desegregation of southern schools in the 1960s, and Smith and Carlos’s protest at the 1968 Olympics are silent images that speak volumes about the struggle for civil rights in America. Considering photographs of the Lovings alongside these images highlights their particular capacity for quiet resistance, and importantly foregrounds Mildred Loving—who is not often considered as an individual actor in the civil rights movement or in her legal case—as a figure of quiet resistance, helping to prove that quiet activism can be as crucial and effective as louder forms of protest.

Loving v. Virginia is unquestionably one of the most important legal cases of the civil rights era in the United States. It continues to be characterized as a triumph against anti-Black racism and white supremacy and has become increasingly famous in recent years, as the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia passed in 2017. The documentary The Loving Story—featuring extended filmed interviews with the couple from the 1960s—was met with enthusiasm in 2001.5 The documentary is interspersed with film clips and still images showing Richard and Mildred at home in Virginia with their family. Most recently, in 2016, the film Loving was released, starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in the roles of Richard and Mildred.6 Negga was nominated for an Academy Award in 2017 for her excellent and accurate portrayal of the soft-spoken Mildred Loving. The film is a hyper-realistic retelling of the Lovings’ story, with sparse dialogue and many scenes involving silence. Negga delivers a masterful performance, and she plays Mildred as shy but politically determined to improve her own life and the lives of her children. In the scene in which she decides to write to the ACLU for legal assistance, for example, Mildred’s expression is determined and cautiously optimistic, as if she understands the magnitude of what she is asking for but truly believes that her actions could affect major change. Both the documentary and the theatrical film are useful texts that help to give a more well-rounded impression of Mildred in particular, and they hint at the potential for a quiet reading of Mildred Loving, though they still prioritize a louder approach to activism, perhaps because the medium of film demands a slightly louder aesthetic.

There are other tributes to the Lovings that value loudness much more explicitly, including “Loving Day” and its celebrations. This is a community-based international celebration of mixed-race unions and was first launched in 2004 as part of graduate student Ken Tanabe’s thesis project at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.7 This community-based initiative maintains a website ( with historical information about the Lovings and plans an annual Loving Day party in New York City, which takes place each year on June 12. The project has commemorated the Lovings’ Supreme Court victory around the world through both large-scale public and much smaller celebrations. The website also invites revelers to upload pictures of their own Loving Day celebrations and even features a page with the lyrics to a Loving Day song written by the organizers of the original event. Loving Day and its organizers are interested in performing a very visible and highly audible (if not outright loud) commemoration of the Loving case.

Today, Loving v. Virginia is typically connected to celebration, perhaps because events like Loving Day and films like Loving remind partygoers and audiences that the case ended in triumph. However, a focus on the victory of the case can overshadow the memory of the struggle that took place in order to win the legal battle. One may also forget who performed a lot of this labor, and one may overlook how they chose to oppose the law. While the Loving case should be celebrated and commemorated, it should also be further explored—as the case is nearly always characterized in a rather straightforward fashion, as a struggle for Black and white equality during the civil rights era. What is often overlooked is the labor that the Lovings—particularly Mildred—performed in order to win their case.

By all accounts, Mildred Loving was a quiet person. She was “resigned,” according to the Life magazine photographer Grey Villet, and spoke in a quiet, slightly high-pitched voice with a soft southern lilt.8 Mildred is often described as an “accidental activist,” or a reluctant hero of the civil rights movement, as if her legal case somehow happened to her or transpired outside of herself.9 After my study of filmed footage and print interviews with Mildred Loving, I would agree that she was indeed a quiet person: Her voice was soft and she appeared reserved by addressing questions in rather short sentences. However, in this article I want to suggest that this quality of “quiet” can be further expanded to describe a mode of expression and activism that is often overlooked.

I argue that Mildred Loving’s quietness was more than a mere shyness or dislike of the spotlight: As a woman of color (who did not actually self-identify as Black, but rather as Native American), Loving deliberately used her quietness as an expression of interiority, which was an important and effective tool in the trajectory and success of the case of Loving v. Virginia. She was resistant to the laws of the state, but dismantled these laws through unconventional and quiet forms of activism, which may be overshadowed by more vocal and visible forms of resistance. The dynamic field of sound studies is an effective lens through which to study Loving. African American sound studies is particularly interested in sound as a powerful tool of resistance and celebration of Black life, but theorists of sound studies also take up issues of quietness as a valid alternative to louder acts of protest or resistance. A study of quiet subjects requires attuning oneself to these lower frequencies. Looking and listening more closely to Mildred Loving promotes an understanding of her use of quiet as a means of disrupting dominant forms of activism and of maintaining interiority and agency throughout invasive and public legal proceedings. I use the discipline of African American sound studies in particular because of the way Mildred’s identity was presented by the media covering the case; she was also perceived and treated as a Black woman in the eyes of the law. I do not wish to erase her Indigenous heritage by choosing the discipline of African American sound studies to examine her case, but rather, I want to make use of the concept of quiet, which is not exclusively mobilized by the Black community but remains useful in the discussion of the political actions of racialized minority groups faced with oppression. In this paper, I will listen to Mildred by considering her own expression of her racial identity in both informal situations and on legal documentation and the deliberate action she took to change miscegenation laws in writing to the ACLU; finally, I will look and listen to her presence in a pair of significant photographs from Life magazine. The photographs in particular speak to the impact of quiet activism in contrast to many louder forms of resistance that arose during the civil rights movement. The medium of photography is silent, so the viewer must listen and look carefully for the frequencies of meaning encapsulated in the image. By taking an approach that is sensitive to Mildred’s quiet acts, I argue that one can begin to see Mildred Loving as a more complex and nuanced figure of the American civil rights movement.

Turning to the concept of quiet within African American sound studies will help illuminate how purposeful Mildred Loving was in her expression and will elucidate how quiet can be mobilized as an alternative to loudness or “noise” that is often associated with Blackness and Black activism, which has undoubtedly also been useful in the fight for civil rights. In the article “Streets, Sounds and Identity,” for example, Clare Corbould illuminates how sound and noise were used by Black residents of Harlem in the 1920s to “deliberately [create] a public space that they thought of as uniquely black.”10 At the time, silence was seen as capitulation—a response to the stereotype that African American people were noisy. Therefore, silence “was a strategy of racial ‘uplift.’”11 Alternatively, making noise was an opportunity to “seize public space” in a deliberate, political act that rejected white people’s policing of Black behavior.12

By contrast, some Black sound studies scholars are interested in how silence and quiet can be mobilized for political gain if they are used in deliberate ways, particularly in the medium of photography. For example, Fred Moten reads the images of Emmett Till’s body and listens to their political and emotional significance. Moten ruminates on the “aesthetic and philosophical arrangements of the photograph” that must “be accompanied by a listening,” prompting the observer to hear the echoes of both “mourning and moaning.”13 Moten reads these images as generating sound, even though photography is technically a silent medium. In my exploration of Mildred Loving, I am primarily interested in the work of two African American sound studies theorists: Kevin Quashie and Tina Campt, who build on Moten’s discussion of photographs, activism, and sound.

In his book The Sovereignty of Quiet, Quashie is concerned with the dominant narratives surrounding Blackness and especially Black resistance, suggesting that Black resistance is typically associated with loudness or outward expression.14 He is troubled both by the assumption of noise surrounding Blackness and by the concept of resistance itself. His interest in quiet, he says, “arrives because of the trouble posed by public expressiveness, particularly the assumption that black culture is predominantly resistant. This characterization is so common sense, so totalitarian, that it ends up simplifying blackness.”15 There is a danger in assuming that Black resistance can only be loud, and an additional danger in repeatedly reducing Black expression to resistance. Quashie is interested in noticing quiet in Black culture, and understanding that within Blackness are many possibilities for expression, including many possibilities for “interior aliveness” that are often overlooked.16

Quashie positions his definition of quiet within the realm of activism and begins his exploration of quiet by tracing an important moment in the American civil rights movement. He discusses the significance of the famous photograph of American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, winners of the gold and bronze medals for the 200-meter race in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. The photograph was taken as the American national anthem plays: on their podiums, Smith and Carlos raised their black-gloved fists and bowed their heads. In this silent gesture, the athletes invoked the Black power movement and protested anti-Black racism in America. Quashie asks observers to read this photo as a moment of quiet protest, an act of resistance that, though silent, is ultimately extremely powerful. Their act of resistance came at a price: Smith and Carlos were ordered to leave Mexico City and were subsequently suspended from the US track team.17 However, in the moment of resistance, Smith and Carlos demonstrated “an exquisite balance of what is public and what is intimate.”18 They engaged in a public protest (what could be more international than the Olympics?) but intervened in a way that is spiritual and vulnerable; their heads were bowed, but their arms were raised. Quashie reads this quiet act as an expression of Black interiority—a rare showing of pain and frustration mitigated by silence—instead of succumbing to the temptation of reading the photograph as exclusively resistant.

While Quashie uses photography to begin his discussion of quiet, in her book Listening to Images, Campt offers a more in-depth analysis of the relationship between quiet and photography, particularly when looking at photos of quotidian Black life.19 It may seem odd to choose the medium of photography in a discussion of sound studies, but Campt suggests that one can infer sound in the silent medium of photography, if one studies the images carefully. She urges observers to engage with the “unspoken relations” that structure the photographs, including “the sonic, haptic, historical, and affective backgrounds and foregrounds through and against which” they are composed.20 This can mean researching the circumstances under which the photo was taken to develop a knowledge of the subject and their cultural context. If one better understands the circumstances of a photograph, one can listen more closely. Additionally, Campt asks observers of photography to use all of their senses when considering silent images to better understand them on a three-dimensional level by encouraging observers not to look, but to “watch” these photos, which exude a kind of low frequency that expresses the “banal as well as [the] singular […The photos] articulate both the ordinary and the exceptional texture of black life.”21 She argues that it is important to capture and witness the quotidian aspects of Black life in order to see Blackness as more than a state of oppression and to envision a Black futurity with many possibilities. This concept builds on Quashie’s idea of quiet, which can reveal interiority if we listen for it. Later in my discussion I will explore some significant images of the Lovings that appear to be domestic or quotidian on the surface, but with Campt’s approach of listening to images, I will “look beyond what [I] see and [attune my] senses to the other affective frequencies through which photographs register,” in an effort to watch the photos rather than look at them.22

As I continue to discuss quiet as an alternative form of activism, it will be crucial to note the distinction between quiet and silence, as they are not synonymous within sound studies. As Quashie asserts, quiet is a metaphor “for the full range of one’s inner life—one’s desires, ambitions, hungers, vulnerabilities, fears. The inner life is not apolitical or without social value, but neither is it determined entirely by publicness.”23 Quiet is therefore not always silence, by which I mean the literal absence of sound, but also a distancing of oneself from, or refusal to participate in, the political or public. Rather, quiet is a conscious revelation of one’s interiority, which can emerge in the form of speech or the written word but can also become visible in one’s actions, even if they are seemingly without sound. The embodiment of quiet does not necessarily always involve a concerted effort—one can naturally practice a certain degree of quietness without being conscious of it if one is comfortable showing glimpses of his or her inner life—however, I argue that the impact of quietness is always most valuable when one consciously chooses its practice, because it can then be carefully and deliberately mobilized for social change.

I propose using this lens of quiet as I return to Mildred Loving, who practiced quietness both in her acts of resistance during Loving v. Virginia and in her careful revelation of parts of her inner life throughout the trial. Historically, she has seldom been considered as an individual; rather, Mildred is nearly always tied to her husband Richard, or the two are fused together into a single entity: “The Lovings.” If she is considered on her own, Mildred’s embodiment of quiet resistance begins to emerge, and gradually, glimpses of her interiority are revealed. I will examine her embodiment of quiet in how she self-identified racially and in her acts of self-naming. I will explore her literal acts of resistance to the miscegenation law that made her marriage illegal as quiet acts. And finally, to borrow a method from Quashie and Campt, I will consider a pair of significant photographs of Mildred from the late 1960s that illustrate her physical quietness and read further into their composition to think about the implications of photography on the Loving case and on the figure of Mildred Loving, more specifically.

One of the most important ways that Mildred Loving embodied quiet can be found in her repeated declarations of self-identity that reveal her own interiority. Throughout her life, Loving repeatedly discussed her racial identity and self-identity in ways that are perhaps surprising, particularly because Loving v. Virginia is usually positioned as a case of an illegal union between a Black woman and a white man. As Arica L. Coleman argues, “the racial designation of the [Lovings] has been merely taken for granted” in popular media.24 Several examples demonstrate a casting of Mildred Loving in the role of a Black woman. The famous article from Life magazine begins with a simple, definitive sentence: “She is Negro, he is white, and they are married.”25 Even the Lovings’ lawyers, Cohen and Hirschkop, framed the case as “overturning the last of the odious laws of slavery and segregation,” which necessitated conceptualizing the case as the struggle of a Black woman and her white husband.26 Though it is understandable that Cohen and Hirschkop would define Mildred as Black because it would lend an urgency to their case in the era of the fight for equal civil rights, this simplification of her racial identity obscures the issue of self-identification and its implications of quiet resistance. One can attempt to restore some of Mildred’s power by exploring how she saw herself, racially. In reality, Mildred Loving identified as Native American, and not African American, as the media and her lawyers would characterize her race.

To understand Mildred’s choice to assert her Indigenous heritage, it is important to understand some of the context of the racial politics of the early 20th century; the racial climate in Virginia and in Caroline Country in particular was fraught with tension due to racial mixing between African Americans, white Americans, Indigenous peoples, and those who were already of mixed race as a result of these unions (which were always outside of the institution of marriage). It was particularly the mixing of African American and Native American people that complicated matters in a society that often collapsed these identities into the single category of “colored” or “mulatto.”27 While the state reduced the identities of Indigenous and Black people to singular definitions, this reduction allowed for more slippage between racial definitions, meaning that many Indigenous Americans could be classified as Black and often passed for Black as well. Though speaking about Oklahoma, Ralph Ellison reflects on the same issues in his hometown, explaining: “And there was the Indian-Negro confusion. There were Negroes who were part Indian and who lived on reservations, and Indians who had children who lived in towns as Negroes, and Negroes who were Indians and traveled back and forth between groups with no trouble.”28 This blurring of lines led to panic from Virginia’s white inhabitants, who became obsessed with retaining white purity. Their mania resulted in the implementation of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. Many Indigenous people were now classified as “Negro” on official documents. Incidentally, it becomes difficult to accurately trace the complex identities of many people living in Virginia at the time. Caroline County was known as an especially mixed community; as years passed, it became populated with white, Black, and mixed-race families who were friendly with one another and even had relationships and children across the color line. No one had attempted to legalize their relationship through marriage—that is, until the Lovings. Interestingly, the Lovings’ marriage certificate states each person’s race, with Richard’s listed as “white” while Mildred is identified as “Indian.”29

Though it is important to acknowledge Mildred’s personal racial identity, it is admittedly unclear as to whether Mildred’s understanding of her ethnic background is entirely accurate. Records of her mother’s family, the Byrds, identify the family as Black, while her father’s family, the Jeters, are listed as “colored” on census records from Caroline County.30 As I mentioned above, the term “colored” often functioned as a metonym for a more complex racial identity. Contemporary theorists like Angela Gonzales have taken up the issue of Mildred’s racial identity in new ways, discussing the erasure of her Indigeneity as evidence of “the enduring legacy of eugenics in how we think about race and identity in our historical amnesia about the colonization of the Native people of Virginia.”31 For her part, Mildred Loving frequently rejected the simplification of her racial identity in various ways. If one pays attention to Mildred’s acts of self-definition, one can see how she resisted imposed definitions of her race that would diminish or erase her claim to Indigenous heritage: a form of quiet resistance to others’ simplification of her racial identity.

Mildred’s resistance was not accomplished through loud protest, but rather was expressed quietly in interviews, or on paper, where she could self-identify. Her first act of self-definition appears on her marriage certificate from the District of Columbia, on which she is identified as “Indian.” Mildred displayed her framed marriage certificate in her bedroom, perhaps as a sign of pride in both her marriage and her racial identity, but perhaps also because she required a visible display of her legal union with Richard. After the Lovings’ arrest and move to Washington, she continued to insist on her Indigenous identity, particularly in writing. In her letter to the ACLU seeking legal counsel, Mildred self-identifies as “half negro” and “half Indian.”32 Here, she may have been conceding to the popular assumption of her Black identity, but still retained her Indigeneity in this letter, which is a subtle act of resistance, displaying her commitment to expressing what she believes to be her racial identity.

Mildred eventually capitulated to the presentation of a solely Black identity because it would help with the Lovings’ case. Perhaps she was right in doing this; as I suggested, her lawsuit would not have gained nearly as much traction had it been framed as a conflict regarding a white man’s marriage to an Indigenous woman, or even a mixed-race woman—the prevalent issue was Black and white relations in America. As Sheryll Cashin explains, “Jim Crow cast her in this role [that is, the role of a Black woman], and her lawyers would need her to play it to help dismantle a system that oppressed visibly dark people.”33 I want to specify that it is crucial to note the problematic erasure of Mildred’s Indigenous heritage. Self-definition is a powerful and political act, and it was particularly impactful for Mildred to assert her complex racial identity in this case with two glaring strikes against her humanity: As a person of color, and as a woman, she had significantly fewer rights than her white husband. While taking the importance of self-definition into account, I believe that this particular civil rights case would most likely not have garnered the national attention and support that it received had Richard and Mildred been cast as a white man and a Native American woman. Black and white tensions were too high at the time, and the American obsession with white purity was focused on what white America perceived to be its biggest threat: racial mixing with African Americans in particular.

I read Mildred’s understanding of this role as a quiet act of acceptance that she would be helping to empower a larger group of marginalized people, including African Americans as well as Native Americans. Though Mildred was likely frustrated that the complexity of her racial identity could not be acknowledged by the mainstream media, she accepted that many people would see her as a Black woman, and that this would ultimately have a larger impact on the success of the case.

Though she conceded to this portrayal in the media, Mildred maintained and reinforced her own sense of identity through further acts of quiet resistance whenever possible, even many years after the trial. In a rare interview conducted in 2004, Mildred still insisted on her Indigenous roots, saying, “I am not black. I have no black ancestry. I am Indian—Rappahannock.”34 She continued, “as far as I know, no one in my family was black,” and she dismisses the press’s continued obsession with classifying her race: “Well, you can’t help what people write. People still refer to me as black, but I don’t pay that no mind.”35 In this refusal, Mildred retained control over her personal identity and employed a quiet approach to dealing with her misrepresentation in the media. By choosing to dismiss others’ impressions of her race, Mildred quietly refused their interpretation of her identity and instead offered her own self-definition, maintaining her sense of interiority, not allowing her identity to be influenced by outside sources.

Mildred embodied Quashie’s quiet in her assertion of her racial identity, but she also importantly embodied quietness through her actions, particularly her political action during her trial. Mildred described herself as apolitical over the course of her life, even telling photographer Grey Villet that the Lovings had engaged in the lawsuit “only for themselves and not as civil rights activists.”36 This is admittedly a complex statement. It may be hard to believe that the Lovings embarked on this costly and invasive legal process with only their own interests in mind. But if one does entertain this idea, and takes Mildred at her word, a dimension of quiet is revealed. Her refusal can be read through the lens of Quashie’s theory about selfishness, which he posits as a generative quality. He asserts, particularly in relation to Black women: “If the quiet subject is a subject of the interior, then selfishness is necessary. She, the quiet subject, is not immune or allergic to interaction with others; it is simply that interaction with others does not overdetermine the quiet self.”37 In this passage, Quashie advocates for the Black woman’s right to her own self-interests. One can infer that Mildred held this belief as well.

An important moment of voiced self-determination and self-interest occurred at the start of the legal ordeal, when Virginia police burst into the Lovings’ bedroom, a literally loud and violent interruption in the Lovings’ personal life. When asked what their relationship to each other was, Mildred spoke first, saying, “I’m his wife.”38 This short sentence bears complex implications. Mildred aligned herself with Richard immediately, stating their legal relationship out loud in a simple sentence. She said “I’m his wife” and not “he’s my husband,” which reveals that she was thinking about her own status rather than Richard’s relation to her. She also spoke before he did, directly addressing two white police officers who broke into her bedroom, calmly defending herself, even if this defense sprang from a place of intense fear. This moment sparked the rest of the case, and it also incited Mildred’s involvement in the political realm, a space she was reluctant to occupy. Though she was uneasy about becoming politically involved, from this moment Mildred chose to engage politically, and she retained an approach to politics through an embodiment of quiet.

Mildred and Richard both insisted that they did not embark on a quest to change state or national laws and were initially unconcerned with the idea that their case could help other people in similar situations. However, as the trial continued, Mildred began to see that other people could benefit from their struggle. In a filmed interview in 1966, she explained their motivation for the case to an interviewer: “It’s the principle, it’s the law…I don’t think it’s right. And if we do win, we’ll be helping a lot of people.” She smiled gently and concluded, “I knew we had a lot of enemies, but we have some friends too.”39 By reading this interaction in contrast with her earlier insistence that the trial was only for the Lovings’ benefit, it becomes evident that Mildred developed a quiet hope that sharing her struggle would benefit other people. She chose to continue in the struggle because the trial became more than just a personal challenge; it gained momentum around the country. The interview itself was personal, as it was filmed and conducted inside the Lovings’ secretly rented house in Virginia. Mildred allowed cameras, and by extension the nation, to see her inner life on a literal level. This revelation is in the spirit of quietness as she bravely allowed the wider world to take a look inside her life, and hopefully to see her humanity.

When the case reached the Supreme Court, the Lovings were invited to attend the hearings but decided not to go. In an interview shown in The Loving Story, lawyer Bernard Cohen states, “We certainly invited the Lovings to come hear the argument [at the Supreme Court hearings]…She would not go alone and Richard wasn’t going to go under any circumstance,” implying that perhaps Mildred wished to be present at the hearings. However, in another scene in the documentary, Mildred smiled and shook her head, saying of the hearings, “I didn’t want to go. I’m nervous enough.…”40 The Lovings ultimately decided not to attend. To some, this choice may seem like an apathetic or even a fear-driven reaction. But I believe their refusal to engage in the hearing speaks volumes about their quiet resistance. The word “hearing” has interesting connotations with regard to the concept of quiet as well. Though hearing implies listening, listening in this case and on the day of the court decision implies a silent acceptance of whatever judgment would be handed down to the Lovings regarding their right to marriage. Mildred and Richard enacted quiet by refusing to engage directly with a court that would debate the validity of their marriage, and particularly Mildred’s humanity as a woman of color. Mildred chose to spend the days of the hearing tending to her family and carrying on with her domestic life. In deciding to receive the news second-hand from their lawyers, they chose to quietly disengage from the spectacle of the court proceedings, and to continue to live their married life in all its domestic mundanity.

Decades after the verdict, Mildred remained out of the spotlight, maintaining her commitment to her own interiority and privacy. She wrote only one short speech reflecting on the trial and its impact on the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia in 2007. Although she insisted in the speech, “I am still not a political person,”41 her language and the message of her speech belie a quiet and deliberate political purpose. Mildred delivered the speech, in part, to support marriage equality for all (a persistent issue in the United States at the time, as the country sought to legalize same-sex marriage), stating that she was proud to have her name “on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life.” Here, Mildred positioned herself as politically engaged: She was a supporter of the equal right to marriage, and showed her commitment to the cause by speaking at this event. She also tellingly used the word “fight” to describe the legal challenges she faced as a young woman: “Richard and I had to fight,” she says, insisting that their fight was not for a larger cause, but that “we were fighting for our love.” The word “fight” denotes a deliberate political engagement, and her statement was delivered in a rare public address; thus Mildred took on a louder form of expression in this speech than she typically employed earlier in her life. This public address shows Mildred’s commitment to political engagement, even as she downplayed her investment in politics. It also demonstrates her consistent embodiment of a range of quiet activism: Although she delivered this speech to an audience, the tone of the speech remained measured, and she refrained from using buzzwords or slogans. Instead, Mildred reflected on her own struggle for civil rights and highlighted the fight for love, above all.

Part of the reason the nation connected with the Lovings in the 1960s, and a major factor in our continued interest in the couple, is thanks to a Life magazine article published in the March 18, 1966, issue. In fact, the article’s accompanying photo essay is what remains truly compelling because of its depiction of the Lovings in the extremely private and intimate space of their home. Reporter Bill Wise and photographer Grey Villet spent several days in the spring of 1966 with the Lovings at their secretly rented house in Virginia, observing their life and taking pictures. At this point, the Lovings were living in King and Queen County, Virginia, having quietly returned to the state and rented a “hideaway house under a false name.”42 This was a difficult time for the couple: They were alternately relieved at being nearer to their family and fearful of being discovered and arrested again. Mildred stayed at home with the children, often staying up very late and into the morning, on the lookout for strange cars passing by. These tensions are captured expertly by Villet and his camera. Though only a handful of the series he shot was published in the magazine article, Villet took such a liking to Richard and Mildred that he developed and printed copies of the photographs he shot of their family, sending them a heavy package in the mail. In the documentary The Loving Story, there is footage of Richard and Mildred smiling and quietly sifting through the photographs on their front porch.

As I prepare to examine the Loving photographs from Life, it is important to consider the importance of photography as an art form, and the context in which these photographs appeared. Herbert Marcuse reminds us firstly that “art is a productive force”43 that can “[reflect] the unfreedom of individuals in the unfree society. If people were free, then art would be the form and expression of their freedom.”44 Indeed, the photographs of the long civil rights movement are aligned with this idea: They depict people in their struggle for freedom, people reacting against their oppression. Marcuse also posits that art can help us remember oppression, which will in turn inspire the “drive for the conquest of suffering.”45 Therefore, photographs of the civil rights movement are important because of their ability to illustrate the suffering of oppressed people, but also because they may spark activism in the viewers of the photographs, a suggestion that remains important in today’s continued fight for civil rights.

As for the importance of context, Allan Sekula reminds us in his seminal essay “On the Invention of Photographic Meaning”: “The meaning of a photograph…is inevitably subject to cultural definition.”46 A photograph has meaning because it exists within a system of “conditions and presuppositions for its readability. That is, the meaning of any photographic message is necessarily context determined.”47 Martin A. Berger elaborates on this theory, noting that civil rights photographs in particular “contain no agreed-upon ‘truths’” in and of themselves.48 He continues to explain that civil rights photography “offer[s] a record of specific people interacting at particular times and places…but [it says] little about social realities.”49 For Sekula and Berger, meaning is derived from where the photographs are situated—the context in which they appear is extremely important, as is the particular audience that views the photographs. The narratives that individuals read into photographs come from “external cues such as captions, text, and photographic juxtapositions but also by internal factors such as the racial values that individuals brought with them to the images.”50 Indeed, knowing the context of a photograph will shape how the viewer interprets it. Historical context is crucial when considering the photographs of the Lovings and other civil rights–era photographs that depict the triumphs of social progress as well as the violence and vitriol demonstrated during this period.

One early example of a triumphant yet quiet protest captured in photographs is the 1917 Silent Protest Parade in New York City, in response to the East St. Louis race riots that took place that summer in Illinois. The September issue of the Black periodical The Crisis published an article by W. E. B. Dubois and Martha Gruening, who described the racially motivated riots as “foul and revolting,”51 and conducted interviews with survivors of the violence—many of whom described the fearsome sonic elements of the riots. Accompanying the article are photographs that depict the parade of 10,000 Black people protesting the violence. Here, quiet and sound are used strategically to make several political statements. The protesters react against the loud and vicious noise of the East St. Louis riots, using silence to demonstrate their own peaceful approach to protest. Silence is also symbolic of absence: The protesters mark the deaths of many innocent Black people in East St. Louis by holding this quiet space for them in a public protest. The protesters also embodied quiet and vulnerability in their dress: The women and children wore white clothing to symbolize their vulnerability.52 The combination of the strategic sound of drumming, coupled with the quiet of the marchers, demonstrated both strength and vulnerability, which protesters mobilized in a show of protest and resistance in this moment in the long civil rights movement.

In addition to these earlier photos of this particular quiet, organized resistance, photographs depicting violence were some of the most effective and memorable images to come out of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s; these images began to shatter illusions about the severity of the violence taking place in the southern states. Some of the most devastating and impactful are the photographs from the viewing and funeral of Emmett Till. Fourteen-year-old Emmett was tortured and murdered by white men in Money, Mississippi, for allegedly flirting with a white woman. His body was returned to his mother in Chicago, sealed with instructions that the container remain closed. Till’s mother, Mamie Till, insisted on viewing her son’s body—which was battered almost beyond recognition—and what she saw “horrified and emboldened her.”53 Although she vowed to talk about her son’s murder for the rest of her life, she insisted that this crime be made visible to a wider audience; she wanted “the whole world to see” the results of such brutal racism.54 Mamie Till held an open-casket viewing from September 3 until the funeral on September 6, 1955. Thousands of Chicago residents filed past Emmett Till’s casket, viewing not only his tortured body, but also viewing the pictures Mamie Till affixed to the lid of his casket—pictures of Emmett as a smiling young teenager, whole and happy. In turn, photographs of his maimed body were published by the Black press, primarily Jet magazine, giving an even wider audience the opportunity to witness the horrifying consequences of racism still thriving in the Deep South.

As Myisha Priest argues in “Langston Hughes Writing the Body of Emmett Till,” Mamie Till performed an important political act in allowing her son’s body to be photographed and viewed by a national audience.55 By displaying Emmett’s body to the public, his mother “insisted that the ravaged text of blackness could be a site of resistance and transformation.”56 Images of Black suffering were not uncommon in mainstream news outlets at the time; Priest points to the ubiquity of the lynching photographs published for decades prior to Till’s murder. What makes the photographs of Emmett Till so powerful is his transformation from another ravaged Black body to a symbol of humanity—his mother let the world see that he was a young boy who was loved, and would be remembered. Priest describes Mamie Till’s decision to display her son’s body as a “gift to the project of black self-representation” that links “black suffering with black political power, and with the assertion rather than the silencing of a black voice” (my emphasis added).57 From a sound studies perspective, the photographs of Emmett Till are technically silent, but they speak loudly: They convey the pain of this experience while also asserting a political point of view. The violence enacted upon Emmett Till demands to be seen and reflected upon. The photographs demand our attention, our eyes and ears.

Photographers captured additional loud moments in the civil rights movement, including the historic walk six-year-old Ruby Bridges took to school in New Orleans, in 1960. The most famous (uncredited) photograph depicts Ruby, dressed in first-day-of school clothes with white bows in her hair, flanked by three giant federal marshals, who shepherded her into the building.58 Other photographs from the same day depict the angry white mob, barricaded across the street, holding placards and yelling obscenities at the child who would desegregate their school system. These images are very loud: Mouths are open and racist rhetoric is scrawled across protest signs in capital letters. These critical moments in the fight for civil rights were highly publicized and discussed in the media of the time, meaning that the public was used to seeing images of Black bodies as symbols of resistance to the longstanding dominance of white supremacy in all aspects of society. These silent images of Emmett Till and Ruby Bridges still evoke emotion and resistance because they so effectively represent the cultural context of their time. They employ a discourse of resistance and political power. The photographs of Mildred and Richard Loving that I will discuss are born out of this cultural moment, and although they are quite different in tone and resonate at a lower frequency than the images of Till and Bridges, they are in their own right powerful symbols of resistance that use sonic elements in strategic ways.

In the context of 1966, the Life article and photos of the Lovings can be seen as serving a simple purpose. The text and accompanying images serve to render the Lovings “normal” and to soothe a predominantly white readership by showing an interracial couple that is “just like them.” Villet captures their humanity by focusing on the mundane, the quotidian. The Lovings spend time together. Mildred watches Richard work on his car. She brushes her daughter’s hair. However unassuming the photographs appear, they are actually carefully constructed to produce a certain feeling in Life’s white readership. Villet was an advocate for civil rights, and he used his limited power as a photographer to walk the line between activism and reinforcing the status quo by “gently promot[ing] civil rights without alienating [the] white reader base” of Life magazine.59 The cultural impact of Life in the 1960s is important to bear in mind: The periodical was “the largest-circulation news source and among the most influential periodicals” of the 1960s, boasting nearly 19 million subscribers in the early part of the decade.60 As Berger points out in Seeing through Race, white photographers of this era were aware that bold images of Black people fighting for civil rights were largely viewed by white audiences as unsavory and sensational. It was instead common to see published images of Black people at the mercy of white people. Such images could reinforce white viewers’ sense of power. At the same time, these images might appeal to more progressive white people, because the photographs “present[ed] storylines that allowed magnanimous and sympathetic whites to imagine themselves bestowing rights on blacks.”61 It is in this climate that Villet approached the Lovings’ photo essay, knowing that white readers of Life might find the images of an interracial couple anywhere from uninteresting to disturbing to quaint. He chose to defy expectations and shoot his photographs as candidly as possible, focusing on verisimilitude and representing the Lovings in their daily lives.

Looking at the photographs so many years after the success of Loving v. Virginia, the nuances observable in the photographs have become more pronounced. The photos are no longer interesting only because they show the Lovings’ humanity, but also because they can be read as “instances of rupture and refusal,” as Campt suggests images of Blackness can be mobilized. In Listening to Images, Campt asks us to “recalibrate vernacular photographs as quiet, quotidian practices that give us access to the affective registers through which these images enunciate alternate accounts of their subjects.”62 Though Campt is primarily interested in government-issued passport photos in her book, her methodology can be adapted when looking at Villet’s photos of the Lovings. Campt is concerned with “listening” to silent images, which can mean learning more about the given circumstances in which a photograph was taken. Listening can also mean imagining different possibilities about the humanity of a photographic subject. And it can indeed mean recognizing the quiet resistance (in the Quashiean sense) of a subject’s interaction with the camera, even as he or she is complying with the photographer.

I have chosen two photos from Grey and Barbara Villet’s book The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait. Both photographs feature Mildred and both exemplify Campt’s definition of “quiet photography” in that they are still images with an abundance of inner life. They require the viewer to look closely and to listen closely to fully appreciate their quiet power. The first is a photograph of the exterior of the Lovings’ rented house (see Figure 1).63 The house stretches across the page with its white siding and horizontal lines. As all of the photos in the collection are in black and white, it is difficult to tell what time of day it is. Villet also preferred to shoot using only natural light, so the gray sky remains the main source of light in the photo, with the front door and far window remaining dark inside.64 In the window on the left of the frame, lit by an inside bulb, is Mildred’s blurry form. She peeks out from behind gauzy white curtains, with her fingers on the upper pane of glass. She looks as though she is about to shut the window. She is the only human figure in the picture.

Figure 1.

Mildred looks out the window of her rented home in Virginia. Photo by Grey Villet.

Figure 1.

Mildred looks out the window of her rented home in Virginia. Photo by Grey Villet.

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This image might be overlooked when flipping through Villet’s collection of Loving photographs, as many of the other images feature the Lovings and their children more directly. It is difficult to see the human figure in this one. But if one looks closer, or listens more closely, using all of one’s senses as Campt suggests, the image becomes haunting in its representation of quiet resistance. It depicts Mildred, once again at home in Virginia. Knowing that she and Richard could return home only in secret adds a contextual dimension to the photo that would otherwise look mundane. Mildred holds tension in her body, which is visible in the tilt of her head and the angle of her arm on the window. In her book, Campt urges us to look at the muscular tension in certain female subjects as “a performance of stillness that holds the complex forces that surrounded and produced these images temporarily at bay or in equilibrium.”65 This could be a moment when Mildred is looking for intruders or police on the property, ready to shut the window and resist interacting with those who threaten her and her family. The photo captures Mildred’s literal quietness as well. She does not speak in the photograph—her mouth is not open, and there is no one else present for her to talk to—but her eyes are wide and she is looking, listening. The picture displays Mildred’s keenness to protect herself and her family; the image speaks volumes without saying a word.

The second photograph features both Mildred and Richard, and is set against the background of the living room of their rented house (see Figure 2).66 The kitchen, just visible beyond the living room, is dark. Though, again, the time of day is unknown, the scene evokes a feeling of relaxation and makes us think that perhaps the children have gone to bed. The light is on in the living room and Richard lies across the couch, his head in Mildred’s lap. He wears his bricklaying clothes from the day and still has his shoes on his dangling feet. At the right of the frame and closest to the camera, Mildred sits upright, with one arm bent under Richard’s head. She is smiling broadly, perhaps mid-laugh, a cigarette poised between two fingers on her left hand. Her wedding ring is there too, and can be seen clearly.

Figure 2.

Richard and Mildred Loving in their living room, 1966. Photo by Grey Villet.

Figure 2.

Richard and Mildred Loving in their living room, 1966. Photo by Grey Villet.

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This photo shows a different side of quiet resistance in that it is a candid photo of an interracial couple in love; it “pulls the viewer into imagining the inner life of the subject[s].”67 Though this image was not published in the Life article, it is a glimpse into the domesticity of the Lovings’ relationship. It shows the quiet pleasure they take in each other’s presence and the fact that they continued to enjoy being together in spite of the stress generated by the legal trial and efforts to keep them separated. They seem like any other couple in love, which is a radical act in itself when one remembers that their marriage was still illegal in Virginia at the time of this photo shoot and that they were hiding out in a rented home in the state. They took a great risk, but smile in the face of adversity.

The muscular tension in this image is also different; it comes from laughing or smiling. It is almost possible to hear Mildred giggle when we look at the photograph. Her physical position in the photo is especially telling. The pose was likely candid (as Villet disliked posing his subjects) and therefore reveals a good deal about the Lovings’ relationship to one another. Here, the husband is supported physically by his wife. Richard is in a vulnerable position, lying down, with his head cushioned by Mildred’s body. She holds him steady while she smiles. The image can be seen as a metaphor for their relationship, with Mildred remaining strong in spite of so many challenges.

A lengthier study of Villet’s photographs would further illustrate Mildred’s embodiment of quiet and present even more possibilities for an understanding of quiet photography. There are many pictures of the couple kissing. Villet captures candid moments, like Mildred’s hair in curlers, or Richard reading to his daughter. The couple is shown with friends at a drag race, watching the cars race past. Every one of the pictures displays an inner life, whether the subject is Mildred, or Richard, or any of their three children, Sidney, Donald, or Peggy. The collection is truly “an intimate portrait” of a family that resists racist rhetoric and laws simply by being together. I focus specifically on these two photographs because they are the most explicitly quiet photographs in the collection and they display the Loving’s togetherness, which is an important aspect of quiet as it shows the inner life of a family that happens to be of mixed race.

It is worth considering a couple of important factors that contributed to this photo series and Villet’s depiction of the Loving family. Villet was unquestionably sympathetic to the Lovings’ case for marriage equality: He was born in South Africa and experienced apartheid firsthand; he was therefore keenly aware of the struggle for civil rights in America and abroad and happened to be in favor of equality.68 His political interests (and his genuine affection for the couple) are reflected in his photo series, as he primarily captured moments of either joy or serenity in the lives of the Lovings. Though one can watch the photographs as I have suggested above, it is difficult to point to a depiction of explicit moments of struggle in Villet’s photos. It is also important to remember that this photo essay was published in Life magazine. The magazine itself specialized in human interest stories from across the United States and was also filled with celebrity gossip and ads for household appliances. This is to say, its audience was the average, middle-class, white American. Villet’s photos therefore needed to appeal to such an audience and spark their interest just enough, without overwhelming them with scandalous content. His choice to include images of domestic life is deliberate: In depicting the Lovings as relatable and unassuming, he helped cultivate a benign image for the couple and in turn, contributed to their case for marriage equality.

The Lovings, and Mildred Loving in particular, are often allotted a sentence or two in the greater story of the American civil rights movement. Their case is stated and they are celebrated as having beaten miscegenation laws. While it is true that they emerged victorious from their battle with the state, it is important to remember the struggle they undertook as well as the end result, particularly as the fight for racial equality in the United States continues. In our current moment, quiet acts of resistance continue to be enacted on national and international stages—activists have more tools at their disposal than ever before, including the ability to share images and videos globally, in seconds. The universality of social media has made it even more possible to vacillate between or combine quiet forms of activism with louder ones.

A notable quiet protest was undertaken in August of 2016, when Black football player Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the American national anthem to protest institutional (primarily police) violence against racial minorities. He explained his gesture to the NFL media after the game: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”69 Several of his teammates and other NFL players followed suit in future games, joining Kaepernick in his quiet protest, which made international news and drew the ire of the 45th US president, who referred to Kaepernick and his fellow kneeling players as “sons of bitches” and called for their firing during a rally in Alabama in 2016.70 Kaepernick was unofficially punished for his protest when the San Francisco 49ers failed to renew his contract in 2017, and he continues to be unsigned to an NFL team as of the writing of this paper. Though he occupied a position of privilege as a football star, which gave him the ability to choose a quiet form of activism, he risked this privilege by divulging his inner life through the act of kneeling, and he has felt negative reverberations from his quiet protest ever since.

I want to specify that while quiet and quiet resistance are important modes of activism, there continues to be an undeniable and critical need for loudness in Black activism. In addition to quiet, African American sound studies has a vested interest in the sounds of activism, as Jennifer Stoever outlines in her book, The Sonic Color Line.71 She draws attention to the final utterances of Black men killed by the police and how people have transformed these words into mantras of resistance, as when protesters chanted and projected via loudspeaker Eric Garner’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” making an otherwise obstructed and quiet voice, loud.72 In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement formed as a result of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The group-centered movement is defined as “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.”73 Though not exclusively committed to protest, its website emphasizes the importance of physically gathering and organizing. Implicit in these protests is a sonic element; BLM protests are often loud, as video footage shows us. Rightfully so: Protesters are often shouted at by opposing organizers and physically oppressed by police. Making noise is an effective and necessary tactic to draw attention to the injustice of police brutality and the murders of unarmed Black people, particularly because of the persistent political urge to ignore these atrocities. Black Lives Matter protesters at live demonstrations do not have the luxury of a quiet approach to resistance: They use sound to draw attention and validation because their lives are at stake.

Though loudness is unquestionably an important aspect of activism, it is just that: one option in a realm of possibility. One does not always need to employ volume as a means of becoming politically active or engaged in the ongoing struggle for civil rights and equality. Through this in-depth analysis of Mildred Loving’s quiet activism, we can see how effective a quiet approach can be, and hopefully remember that there have always been other options for political intervention, even if they are at times harder to see. Mildred Loving did not intend to be a political person, but she made the deliberate choice to engage politically because her civil rights were violated by the state. Her activism and resistance were calculated and quiet, in opposition to many of the louder, more visible protests that gained attention at the time. When one understands her as enacting resistance in a deliberate way, one can see the Lovings’ story as more than a love story. When one acknowledges Mildred’s intelligence, her strength, and also her personal stake in Loving v. Virginia, she is no longer reduced to the shy Black wife of Richard Loving. She has agency, independence, and daring—and all of these things are quiet.


Nancy Buirski, director, The Loving Story (Augusta Films, 2001).


Barbara Villet and Grey Villet, The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press, 2017).


Todd Head, “Interracial Marriage Laws History and Timeline,” ThoughtCo., February 23, 2018, (accessed November 18, 2020).


Earl Smith and Angela J. Hattery, Interracial Intimacies: An Examination of Powerful Men and Their Relationships across the Color Line (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2009).


Buirski, The Loving Story.


Jeff Nichols, director, Loving (Universal Pictures, 2016).


“What is Loving Day?”, (accessed November 20, 2021).


Villet and Villet, The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait.


Shezad Nadeem, “Virginia Is for Lovers,” Contexts 16, no. 4 (2017): 13.


Clare Corbould, “Streets, Sounds and Identity in Interwar Harlem,” Journal of Social History 40, no. 4 (Summer 2007): 859–94,


Corbould, “Streets, Sounds and Identity,” 865.


Corbould, “Streets, Sounds and Identity,” 865.


Fred Moten, “Black Mo’nin’ in the Sound of the Photograph,” in In the Break (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 200.


Kevin Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2012).


Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet, 22.


Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet, 26.


DeNeen L. Brown, “‘A Cry for Freedom’: The Black Power Salute that Rocked the World Fifty Years Ago,” Washington Post, October 16, 2018.


Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet, 3.


Tina Campt, Listening to Images (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017).


Campt, Listening to Images, 8.


Campt, Listening to Images, 7–8.


Campt, Listening to Images, 9.


Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet, 6.


Arica. L. Coleman, “Tell the Court I Love My [Indian] Wife,” Souls 8, no.1 (2006): 67–80.


“The Crimes of Being Married: A Virginia Couple Fights to Overturn an Old Law against Miscegenation,” Life, March 18, 1966, 85.


Coleman, “Tell the Court,” 68.


Coleman, “Tell the Court,” 69.


Quoted in Coleman, “Tell the Court,” 69.


Angela Gonzalez, “Loving and the Legacy of Indian Removal,” Contexts 16, no. 4 (2017): 17–18.


Coleman, “Tell the Court,” 75.


Gonzalez, “Loving and the Legacy,” 17.


Buirski, The Loving Story.


Sheryll Cashin, Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy (Boston: Beacon Press, 2017), 105.


Coleman, “Tell the Court,” 68.


Coleman, “Tell the Court,” 75.


Villet and Villet, An Intimate Portrait, 89.


Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet, 70.


Buirski, The Loving Story.


Buirski, The Loving Story.


Buirski, The Loving Story.


Mildred Loving, “Loving for All” (2007), quoted in Saltlake Magazine, June 12, 2014, (accessed February 8, 2022).


Villet and Villet, An Intimate Portrait, 17.


Herbert Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978), 37.


Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension, 73.


Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension, 73.


Allan Sekula, “On the Invention of Photographic Meaning,” Artforum 13, no. 5 (1975): 37–45.


Sekula, “On the Invention of Photographic Meaning,” 38.


Martin A. Berger, Seeing through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 35.


Berger, Seeing through Race, 35.


Berger, Seeing through Race, 35.


W. E. B. Dubois and Martha Gruening, “The Massacre of East St. Louis,” The Crisis (September 1917): 219–38; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 29, 2017, (accessed March 24, 2022).


Michael Morand, “1917 NAACP Silent Protest Parade, Fifth Avenue, New York City,” Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (online), Yale University (July 26, 2020).


Harriet Pollack and Christopher Metress, “The Emmett Till Case and Narrative[s],” in Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008), 4.


Pollack and Metress, “The Emmett Till Case and Narrative[s],” 4.


Myisha Priest, “Flesh That Needs to Be Loved: Langston Hughes Writing the Body of Emmett Till,” in Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008).


Priest, “Flesh That Needs to Be Loved,”56.


Priest, “Flesh That Needs to Be Loved,” 56.


“Ruby Bridges: The 6-Year-Old Who Needed a Federal Marshal Escort to Attend First Grade.,” A Mighty Girl, (blog), September 8, 2021.


Berger, Seeing through Race, 8.


Berger, Seeing through Race, 15.


Berger, Seeing through Race, 9.


Campt, Listening to Images, 5.


Villet and Villet, An Intimate Portrait, 39.


Villet and Villet, An Intimate Portrait, 7.


Campt, Listening to Images.


Villet and Villet, An Intimate Portrait, 25.


Quashie, The Sovereignty of Quiet, 111.


Villet and Villet, An Intimate Portrait, 10.


Nick Wagoner and the Associated Press, “Colin Kaepernick Protests Anthem over Treatment of Minorities,” The Undefeated, August, 27 2016, (accessed November 20, 2021).


Jemele Hill, “The War on Black Athletes,” Atlantic, January, 13, 2019.


Jennifer Lynn Stoever, The Sonic Color Line (New York: New York University Press, 2016).


Stoever, The Sonic Color Line, 174.


“Herstory,” Black Lives Matter (website), 2018, (accessed November 18, 2021).