This week marks the 45th anniversary of a fundamental moment in the civil rights movement: the legalization of interracial marriage. We have Richard and Mildred Loving to thank for that.
Richard was white, and Mildred was black. In 1958 they left their home in Caroline County, Virginia to get married in Washington, D.C., where it was legal at the time. But when they returned home, they were arrested, jailed and banned from the state for violating the Racial Integrity Act. They moved to Washington D.C., where for five years Richard worked as a brick layer and the Lovings raised their three children. It was then they contacted Bernard Cohen, a young attorney who was volunteering for the ACLU, to try to get the conviction overturned.
But the judge wouldn’t budge, saying
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. … The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
If that doesn’t turn you to Atheism, I don’t know what will.
The case moved to the Supreme Court, where Cohen argued:
“The Lovings have the right to go to sleep at night knowing that if should they not wake in the morning, their children would have the right to inherit from them. They have the right to be secure in knowing that, if they go to sleep and do not wake in the morning, that one of them, a survivor of them, has the right to Social Security benefits. All of these are denied to them, and they will not be denied to them if the whole anti-miscegenistic scheme of Virginia… [is] found unconstitutional.”
In 1967, the conviction was overturned and they were allowed to move back to Virginia, where they wanted to live to be close to family.
In 1975, Richard Loving died in a car crash. Mildred Loving never remarried, and lived in Caroline County until she died on May 2, 2008 at age 68.
Related: A True Gay Love Story On The Titanic
Today, an estimated 7 percent of the nation’s 59 million marriages are mixed-race couplings. That doesn’t seem very high, considering all of the different kinds of people there are.
NPR has a beautiful article (that you can listen to!) and interview with a couple who say racism still is a major hindrance in their lives, after all these years. Read it as you celebrate the legalization of interracial marriage. Thank (Almighty) God!