Mr. & Mrs. Loving: Legalizing Interracial Marriage

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Love is limitless, but it wasn't always that way. Before 1967, it was constitutional to ban interracial marriages, or miscegenation, as it was commonly called during that era. Some states, mostly in the north east, never banned interracial marriage, but the deep south clung to those laws for as many as 300 years until in the verdict of the historical case Loving v. Virginia the Supreme Court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. Pennsylvania was the first state with a interracial marriage ban to overturn its law in 1780[3].

In 1958, when Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter wanted to marry, 16 states including their home state of Virginia considered interracial marriage illegal. In Virginia, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 specified that people were either "white" or "colored" and made it illegal for a marriage to occur between a "white" and a "colored." Loving and Jeter were forced to travel to Washington D.C. to become legally married, but were promptly thrown in jail upon returning home. The couple plead guilty and were sentenced to jail. The original sentence of 25 years was reduced under the condition that they not return to the state together for 25 years.  Separated from their families and barred from the state, the Lovings sought legal help from attorney Bernard Cohen. Eventually, the case reached the Supreme Court, and on June 12, 1967 the Supreme Court declared the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (which banned interracial marriage) unconstitutional along with all other interracial marriage bans in the United States.[1, 2, 4]

The United States has always been a melting pot of mixing; many slaves had children for their owners (whether consensual or not) creating the myriad of skin tones and features that populate the American population today. Until 1967, the idea that the races were separate and should remain separate was being staunchly upheld in the south even though a great deal of mixing had already occurred, and even though elsewhere in the states interracial marriage had been happening for years (re: Fredrick Douglass and Helen Pitts, 1884). The victory of Loving v. Virginia was one of many steps needed to promote the ideas of equality and uphold the premise of freedom. However, even now, 48 years later people still have a problem with the idea of two people loving each other for who they are regardless of their skin color. In 2013, a simple Cheerio's commercial sparked a frenzy of outrage over the interracial family featured, proving that America is not post-racial and still has a ways to go.


  1. Dorr, Gregory Michael. " Racial Integrity Laws of the 1920s". Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 30 May. 2014.
  2. Bump, Phillip. "What overturning interracial marriage bans might tell us about what happens next with gay marriage" The Washington Post 6 Oct. 2014.
  3. "Where Were Interracial Couples Illegal?" 2012.
  4. "Loving v. Virginia: The Case Over Interracial Marriage". American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); visited March 2015

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