Photo courtesy of the Mackay family

Photo: AP/File

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Crayton

Freedom to Marry

 RACE & JUSTICE PROJECT 

Interracial marriage in the U.S., 50 Years after Loving v. Virginia

Part 1

June 12, 2017

Part 2

June 13, 2017

Part 3

June 14, 2017

June 12 is known as Loving Day. Fifty years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 12, 1967 landmark civil rights decision in Loving v. Virginia that legally allowed interracial marriage, the effects of the case continue to reverberate.

 

In light of the anniversary, WGBH News, in collaboration with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, launched “Loving Day,” a commemoration series on interracial marriage airing June 12-14 on 89.7 WGBH. The three-part radio series reports on interracial marriage over the past 50 years, and real-life repercussions as experienced by individuals, couples and families today. How have they dealt with continuing discrimination aimed at them? How have children with interracial parents approached their search for racial identity? And why is one of the Lovings’ descendants protesting a new monument in Richmond, Virginia?

 

Part 1 of the series looks at the ongoing controversy over Mildred Loving's racial heritage. Part 2 is about interracial marriage since Loving v. Virginia. Part 3 examines racial identity and the children of mixed-race couples.
 
The stories were produced by reporter Sally Jacobs and producer Josh Swartz and edited by executive editor and producer Aaron Schachter and senior editor Ken Cooper.
 

On this website you will find related resources, including a timeline of state anti-miscegenation laws and important case law, an excerpt from Sheryll Cashin’s recently released book, “Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy,” and links to maps, relevant websites and other resources to spark learning and discussion. As the series airs, we will add relevant resources and welcome your suggestions. Please email them to SchusterInstitute@brandeis.edu.

Who were the Lovings?

Mildred Jeter Loving, a woman whose mixed racial heritage is still being disputed, and Richard Perry Loving, a white man, were legally married in Washington, D.C. in 1958. But two weeks later, after they had returned to Virginia, they were arrested on charges of violating the state’s 1924 Racial Integrity Act and sentenced to one year in prison. The Lovings challenged their conviction and lost in state court.

 

Instead of giving up, they moved to Washington, D.C., and took their case all the way to the highest court in the land. And in 1967, they won. The Loving v. Virginia ruling invalidated all laws prohibiting interracial marriage in the U.S.     At the time of the decision, 16 other states banned marriage between people of different races. Such anti-miscegenation laws date back to 1664, when Maryland, still a colony, was the first to adopt this kind of law. 

Watch the Lovings answer reporters' questions at a press conference after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in their favor, courtesy of NBC News' archives.

Resources

The Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court Decision (June 12, 1967)

Loving v. Virginia, Oyez.org. Read the details of the case and listen to the oral argument of the Supreme Court from 1967 on Oyez.org, an online resource available from Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (LII), Chicago-Kent College of Law and Justia.com. The project offers a multimedia archive devoted to making the U.S. Supreme Court freely accessible.

Listen in

Oral arguments in Loving v. Virginia
The Lovings' lawyer, Philip Hirschkop, explains how interracial marriage laws trace back to slavery.

Hear NPR’s collection of audio clips from the U.S. Supreme Court Loving v. Virginia trial highlighting what NPR calls “stunning moments” that illustrate how much the country’s language around race and interracial marriage has changed in the 50 years since the case was heard.

​​“Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”

– Chief Justice Earl Warren

 

Warren Court (1965-1967)

Photo: From the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Top row, left to right: Byron White, William J. Brennan Jr., Potter Stewart, Abe Fortas

Bottom row, left to right: Tom C. Clark, Hugo Black, Earl Warren, William O. Douglas, John Marshall Harlan II

Mildred and Richard Loving’s marriage license application (District of Columbia Courts). The marriage license is on display at the D.C. Court’s Marriage Bureau.

"The New Virginia Law: To Preserve Racial Integrity," W.A. Plecker. Virginia Health Bulletin, Vol. XVL, Extra No. 2, March, 1924. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Mildred and Richard Loving were charged with violating Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (see image above right), though they had been legally married in Washington, D.C. It shall hereafter be unlawful for any white person in this State to marry any save a white person, or a person with no other admixture of blood than white and American Indian,” the Act read.

The Lovings’ fight for their freedom to marry didn’t happen in a vacuum: The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. Click on our interactive timeline below to gain perspective on where the Lovings' story fits in with other historic events.

Where did your state stand?

 

The 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision prohibited anti-miscengenation laws that remained in 16 states. In this interactive map from LovingDay.org, see which states had such laws on the books and when they were invalidated.

Want to learn more? Books, films &...

"Loving" (Focus Features, 2016)

Starring Joel Edgarton and Ruth Negga, the 2016 feature film "Loving” dramatizes the story of Richard and Mildred Loving. Negga was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Mildred Loving.

"The Loving Story" (HBO, 2011)

This documentary tells the story of the Lovings’ marriage, trial and ultimately their Supreme Court win for interracial couples everywhere.

Loving: Interracial Intimacy and the Threat to White Supremacy,” Sheryll Cashin (2017, Beacon Press)

Georgetown Law Professor and legal scholar Sheryll Cashin's new book, "Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy," traces the history of interracial marriage in the United States from colonial times to present, examining the legacy of longstanding efforts to preserve "whiteness" and invalidate mixed-race marriages and families.

"Loving" was published by Beacon Press in June 2017, just before the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia.

"The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts," Amber D. Moulton. (Harvard University Press, 2015)

Massachusetts was one of the first places in the United States to enact an anti-interracial marriage law, and one of the first to repeal it. But the law remained on the books until 1843, 60 years after slavery was outlawed in the state. Moulton recounts the struggle to allow interracial marriage in abolitionist Massachusetts. 

"Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law," Fay Botham. (The University of North Carolina Press, 2013)

Botham, a scholar of religion, examines interracial marriage and the laws prohibiting it through a religious lens.

"That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans, and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia," Arica L. Coleman. (Indiana University Press, 2013)

For further reading on race in Virginia, "That the Blood Stay Pure" by historian Arica L. Coleman, Ph.D. provides a thorough historical guide to relations between African Americans and Native Americans and adds valuable context to the debate over Mildred Loving's racial identity.

 

"That the Blood Stay Pure" was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2014. Coleman was a featured expert on the subject in the three-part "Loving Day” commemorative series collaboration by WGBH News and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism.

"Virginia Hasn't Always Been For Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving," Phyl Newbeck. (Southern Indiana University Press, 2008)

Phyl Newbeck, an attorney and director of the Vermont Teacher Diversity Scholarship Program, takes a look at the history of anti-miscegenation laws, with a focus on the case that put an end to all of them.

New York County Lawyers' Association and National Black Justice Coalition Amicus Brief, Samuels et al v. the New York State Department of Health and the State of New York (2005)

An amicus (“friend of the court”) brief comparing interracial marriage bans to same-sex marriage bans. It compares current arguments made against same-sex marriage to arguments against interracial marriage prior to the Loving v. Virginia decision.

This microsite on interracial marriage was written and curated by Schuster Institute staff and research assistants on the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the landmark civil rights case Loving v. Virginia and the "Loving Day" radio series in collaboration with WGBH. Credit: Lisa Button, Deirdre Bannon, Tate Herbert, Noah Coolidge, Florence Graves, Jack Maniscalco, Danielle Frankel, Michelle Dang.