Years before people started advocating and fighting for same-sex marriages, people had to fight for interracial marriage. There was a controversial law against miscegenation which meant race-mixing was forbidden and unlawful. Most states especially the Deep South states banned interracial marriages. But much as they were the most notorious ones for banning miscegenation, many other states had a law against interracial marriages too. In fact, a good example is the state of California which prohibited race-mixing until 1948.
Well, let’s take a look at how things turned around for interracial relationships and the right to marry…
How the 1967 anti-miscegenation law came to be overthrown
It wasn’t just about people being uncomfortable with race-mixing. Even politicians made it a point to outlaw mixed marriages in the U.S. by amending the U.S. Constitution. They even used to use the Christian religion in a bid to emphasize just how bad race-mixing.
Most of these anti-miscegenation laws were focused on mixed marriages between Blacks and Whites. But after a while, it was all about banning marriages between whites and minorities. Well, let’s take a look at this young couple that shook things up and made interracial marriage possible.
The Loving story
Richard and Mildred met when he was 17 and she was 11. They are the interracial couple that always takes the number one spot because their marriage overturned state laws in the United States that prohibited interracial marriages.
At 18, she realized she was pregnant so they ran off to get married.
One day, the cops burst into their Virginia home and went to the young couple’s bedroom demanding to know why the couple was together. According to Mildred, they asked Richard who the woman he was sleeping with was. Mildred replied, “I’m his wife”. The sheriff told her, “Not here you’re not.”
The couple was charged for miscegenation and thrown in jail. Richard was released the next day but Mildred had to stay a little longer before being handed over to her father. A local judge sentenced Richard to a year in prison declaring:
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red and He placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages.”
It was just five weeks after they were married that they were arrested. They pleaded guilty in 1959 and were sentenced to one year in jail.
The judge lightened the sentence by asking them to choose jail term or leave the state for good. So the Lovings moved to Washington, D.C., and got a marriage license. But much as they could love freely, they longed to return to their home town.
The couple decided to fight to be able to be man and wife in Virginia. They sued the state and their case (Loving v. Virginia) went to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, the court ruled unanimously in their favor. 1967 anti-miscegenation law was lifted. The infamous ruling laid the foundation for the right to marry outside one’s race.
Richard later said, “For the first time, I could put my arm around Mildred and publicly call her my wife.” He died in 1975 at 41. Mildred died of pneumonia in 2008, at 68. There is a yearly celebration called Loving Day on June 12, the anniversary of the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision.
Ever since things have changed for the better. According to the Pew Research Center, 12% of all new marriages in 2013 were interracial; and the numbers keep rising…
First interracial couple after interracial marriages were legalized
Gloria and Leroy Griffith were among the first interracial couples to benefit from the 1967 anti-miscegenation Supreme Court’s ruling of the that saw the end of the ban of interracial marriage. Lucky for them, interracial marriage had just been legalized in the South and had the privilege of having a public interracial wedding in 1969.
They dated for a year and decided to get married.
Excited as she was, marrying a white man was a huge risk even to her family. Gloria’s mother had to send them to seek the approval of Gloria’s grandparents. They eventually got their blessings. As Leroy puts it, Gloria’s grandfather raised his hand saying, “…this marriage is chosen by God and I’m with you all the way!”
Much as they had these blessings, not everyone was supportive of their engagement. Getting a church to perform the ceremony proved difficult. Since the church Leroy preached was too small, they had to ask other Presbyterian churches which were bigger. They got turned down by the two they asked. They decided to have the wedding outside, officiated by a pastor from out of town.
Their union offended even strangers. Gloria recalls an angry person who called threatening to bomb them. Another said he would burn them out.
Even so, others were supportive; some asking for permission to attend their wedding because they had never experienced an interracial wedding before. They let it open to the public so that those who wanted to see history being made could. However, they were still concerned about violence.
Thanks to Mildred and Richard Lovings fight for civil rights and the infamous Supreme Court ruling that laid the foundation for the right to marry outside one’s race, today, Gloria and Leroy are still married. Their marriage has had a lasting impact in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And to this day, they still fight for social justice. And they still do it together…
The loving film
Richard and Mildred Loving are the interracial couple being featured in the true-life drama film, “Loving, 2016”. Richard and Mildred got married in 1958 in Virginia when interracial marriage was outlawed in that state.
The movie hit the big screen on Nov. 4 2016 and couple was played by stars Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton.
However, its films such as Loving that bring hope to colored talent. During the first press screening of Loving in May at the Cannes Film Festival, the film elicited awards-season talk.
The film has also been the inspiration behind the interracial couples emojis of all races and genders.
Richard died in 1975 at the age of 41 after his car got hit by a drunk driver, whereas Mildred died of pneumonia at 68 in 2008. Before her death, she opened up about the bond she and Richard shared. She said fame isn’t what made them fight the state; love did. They just wanted the right to love freely.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person”, Mildred said.
Who would have thought then that their story would make history or become a movie? Well, if it weren’t for their fight, I can’t imagine what the state of interracial marriages would have been today. We are glad they fought the fight for us, and they got the right to marry whomever one wants despite race. We might not be 100% expecting but I believe someday, we will get there. Thank you, Lovings!
Looking for more inspirational articles on interracial dating and how to navigate interracial relationships? Visit Love is All Colors.