Loving Day is the biggest multiracial celebration in the United States. It’s an annual celebration held on June 12th, honoring the anniversary of the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia which ended all anti-miscegenation laws (these were old laws banning interracial marriage). Loving Day is not an officially recognized U.S. holiday, but it definitely should be!
Loving v. Virginia was an extremely important Supreme Court case, but it all started from a real couple’s story of love. Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving fell deeply in love and decided to get married. But there was one problem…Mildred was black and Richard was white. Unfortunately, interracial marriage was extremely difficult in 1958. There were laws that forbade interracial marriage in many states, including Mildred and Richard’s home state of Virginia. Luckily, interracial marriages were legal in nearby Washington, DC., so they decided to drive to DC, get married, and return to Virginia to begin their wonderful life together.
Richard and Mildred Loving in the Spring of 1965. (Photo Credit: Estate of Grey Villet)
Their smart idea quickly turned bad. The law in Virginia not only forbade interracial marriage ceremonies, but it also forbade interracial couples from getting married elsewhere and returning to Virginia. One night, while the newlyweds were asleep, they were awakened by the police in their bedroom. They were taken to jail for the crime of being married!
They were both found guilty and sentenced to jail terms of 1-3 years. However, the judge gave the Lovings an option: he would suspend their sentences, if they agreed to leave Virginia for a period of 25 years. Given the choice between prison and banishment, they wisely chose banishment. The Lovings moved to Washington, DC. and began their life together, but they quickly realized that they were in for a rough road. They faced all kinds of terrible discrimination in D.C. They were also having a hard time dealing with the heartache of being forcefully separated from their families back home. Mildred decided to send a heartfelt letter to Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General of the United States.
His letter was forwarded from the Attorney General’s office to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in New York. They took interest in the Loving’s case and helped them find legal representation. Two lawyers, Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, also felt that the Lovings had a case worth fighting for….they agreed to work on the Loving’s case free of charge.
Their case went through many levels of the justice system and was denied every time. Eventually their case appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court, where they decided unanimously in their favor. After nine long years of struggle, the Lovings won the right to live together as husband and wife in their home state. Chief Justice Earl Warren said, “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides within the individual and cannot be infringed on by the State.”
The Lovings victory wasn’t just for them, it was for interracial couples all over the U.S. Because of their struggle and fight, we are free to marry whoever we choose. We are extremely grateful to the Lovings and all of the beautifully blended couples that have paved the way for us today. Out of many, we are one. We are Mixed Nation!
Story Reference: www.LovingDay.org
The Lovings are shown at their Central Point home with their children, Peggy, Donald and Sidney, in 1967. (Photo Credit: The Free Lance-Star archives)