Three movies this year show Virginia’s racial history. In short, it’s complicated.

Three movies this year show Virginia’s racial history. In short, it’s complicated.

The Washington Post

Stephanie Merry, Reporter

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as Mildred and Richard Loving in the movie “Loving.” (Ben Rothstein/Focus Features)

Loving” shows Virginia at its most romantic and picturesque. Toward the beginning of the drama, a man takes his pregnant wife-to-be to an empty field and tells her in a slow drawl, “I’m going to build you a house right here.”

The couple stand on a patchy, tree-lined stretch of grass, the rhythmic buzzing of cicadas pulsing around them. Low-hanging clouds pass languidly overhead, and the grass flutters in the breeze; humidity practically radiates off the screen.

In the movie, Virginia is the place where these sweethearts, played by Golden Globe nominees Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, meet and fall for each other in the mid-1950s. But it’s also the place where a white man and his wife, who’s black and Native American, would get arrested for the crime of cohabitating. Virginia forced Richard and Mildred Loving to go to jail or leave the state they loved, and they spent nearly a decade in Washington, D.C., trying to return.

Virginia showed up in three major movies this year, all based on true stories. “The Birth of a Nation,” a drama about the 1831 slave uprising led by Nat Turner, takes place in Southampton County, not far from the setting of “Hidden Figures,” which opens Sunday and tells the story of black female mathematicians working for NASA during the space race.

These dramas capture the conflicted nature of the commonwealth — the way progress and resistance are in constant battle, with some citizens rejecting the status quo just as forcefully as others cling to it…

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