History was made on June 12, 1967. Can you believe that interracial marriage bans were struck down in the United States only less than fifty years ago?
The Loving v. Virginia decision anniversary is directly relevant to my life for several reasons.
First, my husband Sean and I are in an interracial marriage. The challenges that we have faced as an interracial couple are not anywhere near the institutional barriers that existed during the Lovings’ time. We owe a debt of gratitude to them for their courage.
Second, I worked for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan for a time, and am proud of the work that the ACLU does to defend our constitutional rights and civil liberties. ACLU lawyers Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop represented the Lovings in their court case.
Richard Loving (who was white) and Mildred Jeter (who was Black and Cherokee) were married in Washington, DC fifty-five years ago today, on June 2, 1958. They actually lived in Virginia, but interracial marriage was illegal in that state along with twenty other states. After returning back to Virginia, the Lovings were arrested, tried in court, and convicted of miscegenation.
They decided to leave the state, so that they would not be sentenced to a one-year jail sentence. They contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, which decided to take on the case. The case wound its way up to the United States Supreme Court. After nine years of a legal battle, the Supreme Court justices unanimously decided in favor of the Lovings! Interracial marriage bans around the country were found unconstitutional.
Chief Justice Earl Warren said in the 1967 opinion:
“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.”
With those words echoing today, decades later, what can we expect or hope to read in the Supreme Court’s upcoming decisions this summer about same-sex marriage?
So how does Michigan fare in the history of interracial marriage laws? Interracial marriage was illegal in Michigan from 1838 to 1883. The Michigan Compiled Laws of 1857 included this language: “No white person shall intermarry with a negro…” In 1883, Michigan was one of 17 states that allowed interracial marriage. [Source]
On Sunday, June 9, 3 – 6:30 p.m. at the Cass Corridor Neighborhood Development Center, check out the second annual Loving Day : Detroit celebration! Join us for children’s games, story time, discussion, a showing of The Loving Story, and a potluck!
LoveintheD will have a photo and story booth at this annual celebration. Come take some photos and also share your story as a multiracial/ethnic person, couple, or family. Maybe you’ll see your face and story up on LoveintheD in the future! I cannot wait for this photobooth.
Happy anniversary, Richard and Mildred Loving!
Readers: What are your reflections on interracial marriage, multiracial identity, and multiracial families in your own life?