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Posts Tagged ‘Loving v. Virginia 1967’

The Legacy of Loving v. Virginia

A recent statistic showed 1 in 6 marriages today is interracial.  This is certainly not a difficult number to grasp.  Imagine though that a mere 50 years ago in 16 Southern states interracial marriage was against the law — anti-miscegenation laws designed to preserve “racial integrity.”  While 50 years may seem like a long time ago in the rather short history of the United States, the country is only two generations removed from forbidding people from different races to marry.

Yesterday, June 12, was Loving Day.  It marked a significant day in our nation’s civil rights history albeit one that is not as well known as Brown v. Board of Education.  On that day in 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled unconstitutional laws prohibiting interracial marriage.  The impact of the landmark Loving v. Virginia decision is still felt today.

Loving v. Virginia Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were married in 1958.  He was white, she black and Native American.  Their marriage was a violation of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, and just five weeks into their marriage they were arrested.  Neither Richard nor Mildred wanted to be a civil rights activist.  They wanted only to live and raise their family quietly in Virginia.  Watch the 2016 movie Loving to see an excellent dramatization of their story and struggle.

The Loving decision paved the way for marriage equality.  The landmark Supreme Court ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which opened the door to same-sex marriage, evokes memories of Loving.  Mildred Loving even spoke in favor of gay marriage before her death in 2008.  Another impact of Loving is a fivefold growth in interracial marriages since 1967 when only three percent of marriages were racially mixed.  Interracial couples still face discrimination and hostility, but there has been much progress since Richard and Mildred Loving took their stand.

Katie and Chris [Photo Courtesy of Katie Coulter]

Teachers:  How can you relate this to your students?  Marriage for most of them is years away.  But they are dating and in relationships now.  More than 11 million Americans are in interracial marriages and relationships today, like my niece Katie and her boyfriend Chris.  The Loving decision and its continuing impact should not be forgotten in the civil rights discussion.  eLibrary can help you in this discussion with relevant Research Topics (Civil Rights Movement, Gay Marriage, Race and Ethnicity, Racial Segregation, White Supremacy) and up-to-date newspaper articles surrounding the 50th anniversary of Loving.

June 12: Loving Day

Loving v. Virginia Research Topic

Loving v. Virginia (1967) ProQuest Research Topic

Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving grew up together as friends in Caroline County Virginia. Friendship turned to love and the couple decided to marry. This would be another love story but for the fact Mildred was black (“colored” according to Virginia) and Richard was white. The year was 1958, and interracial marriage was forbidden by the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 in Virginia. Not only did Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law ban interracial marriage, but it also banned interracial couples from marrying in other states and then returning to Virginia.

Mildred and Richard Loving were married in June 1958 in Washington, D.C. where interracial marriage was legal. They returned home to Caroline County and in little time were arrested. Their marriage certificate from the District of Columbia was used as evidence against them. Seven months later in January 1959 the Lovings pleaded guilty to violating the Racial Integrity Act. In return, they avoided jail by agreeing not to return to Virginia for 25 years.

The Lovings lived for five years in Washington, DC with their three children all the while longing to be closer to family in Virginia.  As the Civil Rights Act was about to be passed in 1964, Mildred wrote Attorney General Robert Kennedy imploring his help.  He referred the Loving case to the ACLU where Bernard S. Cohen willingly signed on to argue it.  Nine years later on June 12, 1967, the landmark Loving v. Virginia decision vindicated the Lovings and overturned Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act when Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the majority opinion: “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”  With the ruling, the Lovings were free to return to Caroline County where they lived quietly together until Richard’s death in 1975.

Loving Day reminds us of that time when two people could not marry simply because of the color of their skin.  Its impact continues to be felt today.  In a short time, the United States Supreme Court will render its decision on same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.  Perhaps history will be made again.

Mildred and Richard Loving did not set out to be trailblazers for marriage rights.  They were just a couple in love who wanted to live freely as a family.  Loving v. Virginia stands as the authority for today’s marriage equality battle.