Today is Loving Day-- the anniversary of the milestone court case Loving v. Virginia, in which the US Supreme Court struck down laws that prevented marriages between blacks and whites. Before 1967, more than 40 states had such laws-- anti-miscegenation laws- designed to reinforce the separation of the races that also existed in education, employment, housing and public accomodation.
Richard and Mildred Loving-- a white man and a black woman-- defied Virginia's version of that law by accident. Childhood sweethearts, they decided to marry in 1958. They knew there was a law against it, so they drove to Washington DC where they could marry legally. But when they returned home, they were arrested in the middle of the night and thrown in jail-- for the crime of being white and black married. Sentenced a year in jail, they were told they could avoid jail time if they left the state.
They left, but Mildred Loving wasn't happy about it. They and their small children couln't visit family in Virginia together-- a fact that was inconvenient and wrong. It was the 1960s all kinds of segregation laws were being challenged, all over the country. In 1964, Miildred wrote a letter to then Attorney General Robert Kennedy, telling him about their situation. The rest, as they say, is history.
Until her death in 2008, Mildred Loving downplayed her role in history, insisting that she was no pioneer, and that she simply wanted to live her life with the man she loved, raise their children together. Nothing more monumental than that was on her mind when she wrote her letter and changed history.
Fairy tale as it may sound, the Lovings' story ends sadly. Richard was killed in a car accident in 1973 and Mildred struggled to raise her family alone. She died in poverty.
Still, the Lovings left us a great legacy of love and justice. Because of their courage, my family enjoys the simplest of freedoms: we exist.
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