Phil Deeken receives Victor Greene Award for Best Undergraduate Paper

Victor Greene Award for the Best Undergraduate Research Paper in 2014-15

Philip Deeken, for his paper “The Case of Loving v. Virginia: Robert D. McIlwaine’s ‘Footnote to History’” (written for History 600, taught by Prof. Greg Carter in Summer 2015).

In this 21-page paper, Philip Deeken makes an original contribution to scholarship on one of the most significant legal decisions of the Civil Rights Era, Loving v. State of Virginia (1967), by focusing not just on the legal arguments presented by Virginia’s state attorney general, but also the attorney general’s tacit decision to permit the Lovings to continue to reside in the state of Virginia even as their case was being heard by the Supreme Court. Deeken’s paper asks whether this tacit decision belied some sympathy on the part of the attorney general for Richard and Mildred Loving or whether the attorney general had some other, more practical motivation.

This thoughtful and original paper is a vivid reconstruction of a famous legal victory for interracial marriage, not from the perspective of the victors, but from the perspective of the losing side, analyzing the state of Virginia’s attempts to justify an unjust law. The Awards Committee particularly admired Deeken’s telephoning of the counsel for the Lovings, Philip Hirschkop, to interview him about his opponent’s legal strategy. Deeken took the idea that historians are like detectives very seriously and with great success. It is a first-class piece of work, based on great research, with compelling arguments and splendid writing.