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Moments in History: Loving v. Virginia


The Loving Family

Did you know that Richard and Mildred Loving broke down racial barriers with the landmark civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia? Growing up in Essex County, Virginia, I didn’t realize that I lived minutes away from the Loving family, who lived in the neighboring county of Caroline. They were instrumental in legalizing interracial marriage (specifically between blacks and whites) throughout the South.

Mildred Jeter was born on July 22, 1939 in Central Point, Virginia. She was of African-American and Native American ancestry. Richard Loving, who was white, was born October 29, 1933 in Central Point as well, and he first met Mildred at her school. Eventually, the two quietly started dating despite their six-year age gap and, when Mildred became pregnant at the age of 18, the two decided to get married.

In June of 1958, they married in Washington, DC because the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 prohibited interracial marriages in their home state. They returned to Caroline County and were arrested. In 1959, they pled guilty to violating the act and were given a one year suspended sentence under the condition that they leave Virginia and not return for 25 years. They challenged the law and, in March of 1966, the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the law. By June 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled the law unconstitutional. Because of this ruling, the 16 states that still had anti-miscegenation laws on their books were forced to repeal them.

On June 29, 1975, Richard Loving, 41, was tragically killed by a drunk driver while his wife lost sight in her right eye. Mildred Loving passed away from pneumonia on May 2, 2008, at the age of 68.

Richard and Mildred became reluctant activists in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and forever changed the view of many on interracial marriage in the South.



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