Interracial Relationships In 1960s Virginia USA

There isn’t much that is unusual about Richard and Mildred Loving, they met, became childhood sweethearts and fell in love. However Richard was white and Mildred of black and Native American descent, and this was 1960’s Virginia. As victims of consequence they were charged and imprisoned under a Virginia statute that banned interracial marriages. Up until 45 years ago, 16 states deemed marriages between two people of different races illegal.

They eloped to Washington in June 1958 where they married, but on their return to Virginia they were both arrested. They were each sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for 25 years on the condition that they leave the state.

In 1963, Mildred Loving wrote to the US Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, who referred her case to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). The case was taken all the way to the US Supreme Court.

On June 12, 1967. the Supreme Court ruled that the laws forbidding inter-racial marriages were unconstitutional.

Mildred and Richard Loving went on to have three children, Donald, Peggy, and Sidney Loving.

Richard died at the age 41 in 1975, when a drunk-driver hit their car in Caroline County, Virginia. Mildred lost her right eye in the same accident.

Mildred died of pneumonia on May 2, 2008, in Milford, Virginia, at age 68. Her daughter, Peggy Fortune, said, “I want people to remember her as being strong and brave, yet humble—and believing in love.”

 

Alex Browne studied History at Kings College London and is an Assistant Editor at Made From History. He specializes in post-war history in the USA and Central America.