Thursday, February 23, 2012

Loving couple

The Love Story that Changed History – Richard
and Mildred Loving

“When any society says that I cannot
marry a certain person, that society has cut off a segment off my freedom,”
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 1958."I am still
not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court
case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the
family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek
in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving,
are all about." Mildred's "Loving for All" statement, 6/12/07
- Source: Freedomtomarry.orgIt seems appropriate on Valentine’s
Day to celebrate the life and marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving. The
Lovings were two people who never set out to change the law, nor were they
activists in any way. They were just two crazy kids in love who wanted to get
married. “We both thought about other people,” Richard Loving said in an
interview with LIFE magazine in 1966, “but we are not doing it just because
somebody had to do it and we wanted to be the ones. We are doing it for
us.”The year was 1958; Eisenhower was midway through his second term in
office, Elvis was in the army, Michael Jackson would be born in August, the
European Economic Community was founded, 14-year-old Bobby Fischer wins the
United States Chess Championship. Artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry,
Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, the Everly Brothers and Ricky Nelson were climbing
the charts. On the Road by Jack Kerouac had been published the year before. In
February Ruth Carol Taylor was the first African American woman hired as a
flight attendant. It was the twilight of the post-World War II era before the
explosion of the Swinging Sixties.On June 2, 1958, Richard Loving (1933
- 1975), who was white, and his part-black, part-Cherokee fiancée Mildred Jeter
(1939 - 2008) travelled from Virginia to Washington, D.C. to be married. It was
a shot-gun wedding, Mildred, 18 years old was pregnant. The young couple had
known each other since she was 11 and he was 18 but it wasn’t until years later
that their friendship turned to romance. No one in Caroline County, VA thought
it was odd. The area was known for friendly relations between the two races,
many people were clearly of mixed race. Ebony Magazine in an article published
in 1967 reported that black “youngsters easily passed for white in neighboring
towns.”Five weeks after their wedding, the newlyweds were in bed in
their house on the morning of July 11, 1958, when the county sheriff and two
deputies, acting on an anonymous tip, burst into their bedroom and shined
flashlights into their eyes. A threatening voice demanded, “Who is this woman
you’re sleeping with?” Mildred replied, “I’m his wife.”Richard then pointed to
the marriage certificate that hung on the bedroom wall. The sheriff replied with
a sneer, “That’s no good here.”The couple was arrested, and after
several nights in jail, they pled guilty to violating the Virginia law called
“The Racial Integrity Act.” The indictment read “cohabiting as man and wife,
against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.” At the time, interracial
marriage was still illegal in 24 states, including Virginia. The Virginia law
had been on the books since 1662, adopted a year after Maryland enacted the
first statute against interracial marriage. At one time, 38 states had similar
laws against miscegenation. It wasn’t until 1948 that the California Supreme
Court became one of the first to overturn the law in their state. To
avoid a jail sentence, the Lovings’ agreed to leave the state; they could return
to Virginia, but not at the same time, for a period of 25 years. They paid the
court fine of $36.29 each. Living in exile in D.C. with their three children,
the Lovings’ missed their families, friends, and their life in the familiar
surroundings of the Virginia hills. In 1963, Mildred wrote a letter to the then
Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy asking for help. He wrote her back suggesting
she get in touch with the American Civil Liberties

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