June 12 is Loving Day, which is the day the Supreme Court struck down state bans against interracial marriage.
The day is VERY appropriately named. The case was Loving v. Virginia, and the interracial couple in love at its center were Richard and Mildred Loving. In 1967 the Supreme Court decision struck down 16 state bans on interracial marriage as unconstitutional.
Peter Wallenstein, author of Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry…
“Over the long haul, it changes America…
It’s just a stunning case.”
The times HAVE changed. In 2015, one in six newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity which is more than five times higher than the number of intermarried newlyweds in 1967, according to Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
According to Wallenstein,
In 1958, Mildred got pregnant and the couple traveled to Washington, D.C. to get married. They then returned home to Caroline County, Virginia, and not long after they were woken in the middle of the night by policeman who informed them they were breaking the law.
They were jailed on charges of unlawful cohabitation and offered a choice: either continue to serve jail time or leave Virginia for 25 years. The couple chose the latter and left the state.
Wallenstein said Mildred Loving reportedly wrote a letter to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy pleading their case, and he directed her to the American Civil Liberties Union. A lawyer from the ACLU took their case, which eventually made its way to the Supreme Court where it was unanimously overturned on June 12, 1967.
Wallenstein described Mildred Loving as instrumental in getting the case overturned, but she never considered herself a hero. She told AP, in a rare interview in 2007,
“It wasn’t my doing. It was God’s work.”
Richard Loving died in a car crash ’75 and Mildred Loving died in ’08.
Their story is chronicled in the 2016 movie Loving as well as the 2011 documentary The Loving Story.
(Photo, screen grab; via USA Today)