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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Remembering the Lovings



Forty-one years ago today anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional. Anti-miscegenation laws were laws that banned interracial marriage and sometimes interracial sex between whites and members of other races and date from 1863 in the United States. In North America, laws against interracial marriage and interracial sex existed and were enforced in the Thirteen Colonies from the late seventeenth century onwards, and subsequently in several US states and US territories until 1967. Similar laws were also enforced in Nazi Germany, from 1935 until 1945, and in South Africa during the Apartheid era, from 1949 until 1985.

The case that brought the end of anti-miscegenation laws in the US was Loving v. Virginia. Richard and Mildred Loving were married in 1958 in Washington D.C. because their home state of Virginia still upheld the anti-miscegenation law which stated that interracial marriages were illegal. He was white and she was Black. They were married, and then lived together in Caroline County, Virginia. Five weeks after their wedding they were pulled from their bed in the early morning hours of July 11th, 1958. Mr. Loving spent a night in jail and his wife several more.

In 1959 they were prosecuted and convicted of violating the state's anti-miscegenation law. They were each sentenced one year in jail, but promised the sentence would be suspended if they agreed to leave the state and not return for 25 years. Forced to move, they returned to Washington D.C. where, in 1963, they initiated a suit challenging the constitutionality of the anti-miscegenation law. In March of 1966, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the law, but on June 12th, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled the law unconstitutional. Thus, in 1967 the 16 states which still had anti-miscegenation laws on their books were forced to erase them.

Mr. Loving died in a car accident in 1975, and the Lovings’ son Donald died in 2000. Mildred Loving died May 6th of this year. In addition to her daughter, Peggy Fortune, who lives in Milford, Va., Mrs. Loving is survived by her son, Sidney, of Tappahannock, Va.; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

There is still more work to be done to secure the rights of people in loving relationships, but today we can pause and remember a couple who struck a blow for equality.

4 comments:

JosephMcG said...

Thank you Stephanie for this post...

EmeraldPrincessOnline said...

"The Lovings" were trailblazers. It is still at times difficult to comprehend that we have been so blessed to be alive at this time in our history and to have seen so much positive change just in the span of our own lifetime.

Kim Thompson said...

I think their last name, "Loving" proves to a good fit for these brave, strong, and smart people.

Lorraine Hart said...

Wow...thank you Stephanie. I was not aware of this story at all, not growing-up in the States.

You're right Kim...perfect name...and badge of courage!