Interracial marriage was legalized only 54 years ago

With loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court overturned all laws banning interracial marriage.

Richard and Mildred were an interracial couple. In 1958, they married in D.C. then moved back to Virginia where an anti-miscegenation statute made their marriage illegal.

Late one night, the police entered their home, went into their bedroom as they slept, and arrested them for “cohabitating as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.”

Richard and Mildred then received a one-year prison sentence which would be suspended if they left Virginia. So, they packed packed up and moved to Washington D.C., sneaking home to see family and friends. Tired of this, Mildred wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy who referred her to the ACLU.

Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court saw their marriage differently.

Loving v. Virginia was in the right place at the right time, and in 1967 the Supreme Court ruled that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law — and similar laws in the 18 other Southern states — was unconstitutional: “[T]he freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared Viriniga’s law to be unconstitutional, sixteen other states which had laws prohibiting interracial marriage, fell.

This incredible change might never have happened if the ACLU had not answered Mildred Loving’s call for help.

Two young Alexandria attorneys, Phil Hirschkop and Bernie Cohen, worked as volunteers for the ACLU, and represented the Lovings without charge.

It is worth noting that important things happen in different ways in this country. There are longterm movements that gather momentum and create change through the making of new laws. But sometimes, individuals propel us forward by refusing to give up.

Mildred and Richard Loving loved each other and wanted to be married and live in Virginia.

Mildred Loving refused the status quo…and history was made.

Content via the ACLU of Virginia