Documentary filmmaker Nancy Buirski won Emmy and Peabody Awards for “The Loving Story,” about a Virginia couple’s successful challenge to a ban on interracial marriage, has died at 78.

September 6, 2023 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography

 Via The New York Times

September 1, 2023

Black and white photography by Grey Villet of Mildred Loving, African-American and Native woman, with her white husband's head resting in her lap in 1965
Grey Villet: Mildred and Richard Loving, 1965

Nancy Buirski, an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose eye was honed as a still photographer and picture editor, died on Wednesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 78.

After founding the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in 1998 at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and directing it for a decade, Ms. Buirski (pronounced BURR-skee) made her own first documentary, “The Loving Story,” in 2011.

The film explored the case of Mildred and Richard Loving, who faced imprisonment because their interracial marriage in 1958 was illegal in Virginia. (She was part-Black and part-Native American, and he was white.)

Their challenge to the law resulted in a landmark civil rights ruling by the United States Supreme Court in 1967 that voided state anti-miscegenation laws.


"Years earlier, as a picture editor on the international desk at The New York Times, Ms. Buirski was credited with choosing the image that won the newspaper its first Pulitzer Prize for photography, in 1994. After seeking a photograph to accompany an article on war and famine in southern Sudan, she choose one by Kevin Carter, a South African photojournalist, of an emaciated toddler collapsing on the way to a United Nations feeding center as a covetous vulture lurked in the background.

Ms. Buirski commended the photo to Nancy Lee, The Times’ picture editor at the time. She then proposed it, strongly, for the front page, because, she recalled telling another editor, “This is going to win the paper’s first-ever Pulitzer Prize for photography.”

The photograph ended up appearing on an inside page in the issue of March 26, 1993, but the reaction from readers, concerned about the child’s fate, was so strong that The Times published an unusual editors’ note afterward explaining that the child had continued to the feeding center after Mr. Carter chased away the vulture.

The picture won the Pulitzer in the feature photography category. (Mr. Carter died by suicide a few months later at 33.)"

Full obituary here.

View Grey Villet's photographs of Richard and Mildred Loving here.

Tags: anti-miscegenation laws Civil Rights documentary films interracial marriage marriage equality racial equality Supreme Court The Lovings