Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

June 13, 1967

On June 13, 1967, the Chicago Defender reported that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the ban against interracial marriage in Virginia and fifteen other states. The news also appeared days later in the Norfolk Journal and Guide (“Top Court Junks Marriage Bars”) and the Los Angeles Sentinel (“Interracial Love Gets Supreme Court O.K.”). The couple, Mildred and Richard Loving, were married in Washington, D.C. (where interracial marriage was legal) in 1958, but shortly after they returned to Virginia they were arrested in their bedroom during a nighttime raid by the sheriff of Caroline County, Virginia. Facing jail time for violating the state’s Racial Integrity Act, the Lovings moved to Washington, D.C.. After five years in the nation’s capitol, the couple wanted to return to their home in Virginia so they contacted the ACLU to appeal Virginia’s interracial marriage ban. On the Lovings and their children, see these photographs by Grey Villet.  

In Loving v. Virginia, the court ruled unanimously, finding that:

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.

On the history of antimiscegenation laws, see historian Peggy Pascoe’s What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America. Pascoe makes it clear that these laws were a foundation for larger projects of white supremacy and shows that until the late 1950s most western states had laws prohibiting whites from marrying African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and/or Asian Americans. Pascoe also cites a 1968 poll that found that 75 percent of whites disapproved of interracial marriage, and only 17 percent approved of it. “In little more than a generation,” Pascoe concludes, “most White Americans somehow managed to forget how fundamentally they had once believed these bans to be and, moreover, managed to persuade themselves that they, and their government, had always been firmly committed to civil rights and racial equality.”108

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