NPR logo Celebrating 40 Years of Loving Day

Celebrating 40 Years of Loving Day

I previously noted the recent passing of Mildred Loving. However, I thought on the day honoring both Mildred and her husband Richard it was worth remembering their bravery once again with this commentary from Morning Edition:

You may not know it, but June 12th is day of great historical significance.

Forty-one years ago, the Green Bay Packers were the first Super Bowl victors, the Jimi Hendrix Experience released its debut album, the Beatles put out a little thing called Sergeant Pepper, and interracial couples could still not legally marry in 16 of 50 of these United States.

Hence, the significance of June 12th. Loving Day is a little observed, but considerable day of remembrance — particularly for those with some connection to an interracial relationship, as Loving Day marks the end of one of the last "slave laws" that remained on the books in many Southern states.

Loving Day is not named for the emotion of loving, but, fittingly, for Richard Loving and his wife Mildred. Richard was white, and Mildred was black and when they were married in 1958, their home state of Virginia was one of those 16 that considered the two of them being together just plain criminal.

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For a lot of you youngsters raised in a multi-cultural society, I'm sure it's hard to believe people could get so bent they'd actually write laws restricting affairs of the heart. But interracial marriage - miscegenation is the pejorative - was once a severely odious concept. In 1912, Congressman Seaborn Roddenbery of Georgia tried to introduce an amendment to the Constitution banning such unions. To his colleagues in Congress he lectured:

"It is contrary and averse to every sentiment of pure American spirit. It is contrary and averse to the very principles of a pure Saxon government. It is subversive of social peace. ... No more voracious parasite ever sucked at the heart of pure society and moral status than the one which welcomes or recognizes everywhere the sacred ties of wedlock between Africa and America."

Then, as now, a particular ilk of politician tried to make bank using relationships between consenting adults as a wedge issues. Substitute "Africa and America" in the previous with "same sex couples" and you get my drift.

The Lovings spent time in jail for the high crime of being married to each other, were forced to move from Virginia. Then, on June 12 of 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Lovings' criminal convictions and struck down all laws against interracial marriage.

Now, 41 years later, there's something like 4.3 million mixed-marriage couples in the United States.

Though their only desire was to spend a lifetime together, it was not meant to be for the Lovings. Richard was killed in a 1975 car accident. Mildred passed away May 2nd of this year.

Well, they're together again now.

For the millions of mixed race couples and their families, this Loving Day is one to be particularly celebrated. It arrives on the heels of history, and is personified in Barack Obama's candidacy. Forty-one years after the laws were struck down - just 41 years. And now the son of a relationship once considered contrary to "every sentiment of pure American spirit" is one step removed from the American people placing him into the highest office in the land.