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.

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.



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While we are celebrating negating the laws opposing inter-racial marriage, how do we neglect the rest of the story??

If we were talking about a white man of 20 years old today, impregnating a 14 year old black girl, would it not be statuatory rape? Would Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson celebrate this event?

Sent by wil | 8:29 AM | 6-12-2008

Happy Loving day to my parents, an interracial couple. And to all those courageous people all over the world who defy conventions in the name of a loving relationship.

So happy Loving day to all interracial couples and their families.

Happy Loving day to all gay/lesbian/bisexual and transgender couples everywhere. We are the next frontier in marriage equality, so Happy Loving day to all.

Sent by Jesus Roberto Rivera | 10:13 AM | 6-12-2008

I hope that 41 years from now we will be lucky enough to have a child of a same-sex couple as a presidential canidate - and it will not be much of an issue in his/her canidacy!

Sent by Julia | 11:01 AM | 6-12-2008

I was born in 1977. It is hard for me to believe there was ever an issue for interracial couples to be married. I watched an interracial married couple weekly on the Jeffersons. Unfortunately, I am living in a time when I don't have the freedom to marry the man I love. I have gay and lesbian couples in my life who have been together for over 25 years--who have shown their commitment to each other, yet can't marry in their home states (Maryland being one of them). My only question is: why can't we all support the same right to marry for everyone? Love is love. Equality is for everyone.

Sent by richard | 11:09 AM | 6-12-2008

Thanks for remembering us such an important day. My parents -both children of mixed race couples from the 40's- suffered from the law that banned the Loving's marriage. 41 years later, I was free to followed my grandparents' steps and been part of an interracial marriage.

Sent by D. Gabriel | 11:39 AM | 6-12-2008

Actually it is very easy to "believe people could get so bent they'd actually write laws restricting affairs of the heart." That reality still exits, and adversely impacts the lives, the freedoms and the rights of many Americans. Not only do States prevent couples who share gender in common from marrying, the federal government has refused to step in and demand that all American receive equal protection throughout the States. Then in a further slap to our dignity, the Federal Government has refused to recognize marriages between persons with gender in common even though they are fully legal and recognized by certain states.

So while I agree that Richard and Mildred should be recognized as trailblazers on the path to full rights for all Americans, we cannot celebrate until all of us are free to live in loving unions.

I ask that you join the growing chorus of voices rising in support of rights for all Americans such that we may all soon accurately comment "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."

Sent by Fred Wood | 12:58 PM | 6-12-2008

Just beautiful. I heard the audio of this story on my morning commute today(KPBS,) and was very moved. Coming to this blog to re-experience it, I will make sure to bookmark it so my kids can read it as well. Disappointed though that the written version doesn't have the same impact as the audio's much more subtle "but I digress". Sarcasm has its place. Thanks very much.

Sent by Ryn Corbeil | 4:14 PM | 6-12-2008

It is very interesting that in this instance, the woman was Black and the man was White. I wonder if that somehow made it more acceptable to do away with the law in question.

Sent by Miss Ann | 9:52 PM | 6-12-2008

I thought this was a really interesting story until I realized it was about the presidential election....I was sure the point was going to be something about gay marriage..... "They just were in love with one another and wanted the right to live together as husband and wife in Virginia, without any interference from officialdom." Except for the husband/wife titles and the part about Virginia, this story is obviously more connected to the recent ruling in California. I was disappointed to hear a nother reference to the fact that a black man is running for president rather than acceptance for "Loving"in any form. Otherwise, i thought it was a really good story :)

Sent by Wynne Hurly (Win) | 2:31 PM | 6-13-2008

Thanks, John, for yet another eloquently -- and oh-so-subtly -- spoken essay on American culture and society. You gave people something to think about. Keep up the good work.

Sent by Amy Ranger | 8:10 AM | 6-14-2008

Wow. I never knew "Loving Day" was even a holiday, thank you so much for sharing that with me.

I come from a family with three interracial couples: My brother-in law is Chinese, sister-in law Irish, and my second sister-in law from North Dakota.

My girlfriend is from Chile. family is as diverse as it gets.

To think that my nephews would not have been born is a shocking realization. It's sad. We are all human, regardless of color.

Love is universal and is color-blind.

Sent by Rashid | 12:34 PM | 6-16-2008

only goes to prove that love has no boundaries - love and peace to all loving people!

Sent by edward barone | 11:41 PM | 7-2-2008