The other documentary we recently discovered is the four-part series The Loving Generation, which features interviews with individuals who were born to interracial couples in the 20 years following the 1969 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, which ruled anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.
Our unit in Using Informational Text to Teach To Kill a Mockingbird features an excerpt from the Loving decision to help students make sense out of the character of Dolphus Raymond in chapter 16. Just as Scout doesn’t understand why Raymond lives the way he does, students today are likely unaware of the Loving decision, the anti-miscegenation laws it overturned, and the effects of both that extend to the present day. Any episode in the series would provide an engaging hook into this unit (perhaps along with a clip from the recent dramatization of the Lovings’ story).
The first episode, “Census,” introduces Loving v. Virginia and focuses on the reflections of members of The Loving Generation on their mixed-race parentage and how that influenced how they identify themselves personally and publicly.
In the second episode, “We Are Family,” the interview subjects speak about how race was dealt with within their immediate family and on their relationships with both sides of their extended families, especially in the era of Trump.
“Coming of Age,” the third episode, captures the interviewees’ thoughts about how being biracial affected them socially during their school years. This episode is particularly promising as a springboard for discussion with students about growing up amid the sociocultural politics of mixed racial heritage in the U.S. today.
The fourth episode, “The Obama Era,” confronts the idea that, with the election of Barack Obama, America entered a post-racial era. It also focuses on what the election of a biracial president meant personally to members of The Loving Generation, especially now that so many of them are parents themselves raising multiracial children of their own.
The 10-12-minute length of each of these episodes makes them easy to incorporate into a class period, and they are enormously timely and relevant subjects of discussion in ELA or social studies classes in their own right. However, we think these episodes have particular value to teachers who are striving to make connections between To Kill a Mockingbird and the present day.
We are always on the lookout for new connections to the books we love to teach not only because it builds timely relevance for our students, but it also reinvigorates our teaching. Furthermore, it models for our students the critical disposition of paying attention to the world and looking for new ideas and connections to help us understand and navigate our everyday lives. And it’s so much fun!