What does the landmark 1967 civil rights decision Loving v. Virginia mean for interracial couples and families today?
WGBH News in partnership with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism present a "Loving Day" commemoration radio series along with online resources regarding interracial marriage and families
Part 1: Passing Road
Mildred and Richard Loving on Jan. 26, 1965. Credit: AP/File
Fifty Years Later, The Couple at the Heart of Loving v. Virginia Still Stirs Controversy
Reported by Sally Jacobs
Produced by Josh Swartz
Edited by Aaron Schachter and Ken Cooper
Central Point, Va. — Not much has changed in the rural hamlet of Central Point, Virginia, since Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter, called “String Bean” for her slender frame, used to moon over one another in the 1950s. Teenagers still speed by the soybean fields where Richard raced his black Ford dragster. The couple's tumbledown white house still overlooks Passing Road, so named for residents of color who sometimes passed for white.
But one thing has changed. Richard and Mildred, the interracial couple who triggered the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down state laws prohibiting interracial marriage, are long gone. Now, with the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark decision coming up June 12, their matching gravestones have become something of a tourist destination.
“Last weekend I saw a bride and groom visiting and taking pictures behind the tombstone,” said neighbor Glenda Rinaldi, who lives next door to the cemetery. “The bride was a black young lady, and the groom appeared to be white and Caucasian. I just thought that was awesome.”
Sally Jacobs’ profile of Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, who is featured in the “Loving Day” series along with her parents Winston and Trudy Cox, an interracial couple, was published in the Boston Globe on June 12. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, Cox DiGiovanni performed her one-woman, multimedia solo drama called “One Drop of Love” in Cambridge, Mass., on June 13.
Credit: Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni’s “One Drop of Love” YouTube page
A marker commemorating the 50th anniversary of the case was dedicated in Richmond, Virginia, June 12 by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
In Part 1 of the “Loving Day” series, reporter Sally Jacobs covers the controversy the wording on the marker caused.
The original text intended for the aluminum and metal marker, circulated publicly more than a year ago, described Richard and Mildred like this: “Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a woman of African-American and Virginia Indian descent married in June 1958 in Washington D.C.”
But soon after those words were made public, Julie Langan, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, got a call from Mark Loving, Mildred's grandson. He was not happy.
“He objected to our presenting any information that suggests that Mildred Loving was not Native-American, that she was African-American and not Native-American,” said Langan. “He would like her to be identified as all Virginia Indian.”
Read the whole story here, and watch video of the commemoration, below.
Credit: Courtesy of ACLU of Virginia
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (left) looks out on the crowd gathered in Richmond for the June 12 dedication of a historical marker commemorating the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court Decision. Credit: Courtesy of ACLU of Virginia
Although the Lovings are gone, their house in Central Point still stands. Mildred’s brother and sister-in-law live on Passing Road. Photo: Sally Jacobs.
Phil Hirschkop, one of Richard and Mildred’s lawyers in the Supreme Court case, told reporter Sally Jacobs that the dispute over Mildred’s race wouldn’t have made a legal difference. “Legally, whether they were Native-American or African-American, the law was exactly the same, and the results of the law exactly the same. It wouldn't have made any difference.” Photo: Sally Jacobs.