STEVE INSKEEP, host:
This day, June 12th, is a holiday for some Americans. It's not on the federal holiday calendar, but it is on the calendar of MORNING EDITION commentator John Ridley.
JOHN RIDLEY: Forty-one years ago the Green Bay Packers were champs of the first Super Bowl; the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their debut album; and interracial couples could still not legally marry in 16 of these 50 United States. Hence the significance of June 12th - Loving Day, a little observed by 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.
Now, Loving Day is not named for the emotion loving, but fittingly for Richard Loving and his wife Mildred. Richard was white was 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.
Now, for a lot of you youngsters raised in a multicultural society I'm sure it's hard to believe people could get so bent that actually write laws restricting affairs of the heart. But interracial marriage was once a severely odious concept.
In 1912, Congressman Seaborn Roddenberry of Georgia tried to introduce an amendment to the Constitution banning such unions. To his colleagues in Congress he lectured: It is contrary and adverse to every sentiment to pure American spirit; 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.
Aren't you glad we're living in a time when politicians don't use relationships between consenting adults as wedge issues? But I digress.
The Lovings spent time in jail for the high crime of being married to each other, were forced to move from Virginia, and then on June 12th of 1967 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Lovings' criminal conviction and struck down all laws against interracial marriage.
Though their only desire was to spend a lifetime together, sadly it was not meant to be for the Lovings. Richard was killed in a 1975 car accident; Mildred passed away on May 2nd of this year. Well, they're together again now.
For 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.
INSKEEP: Commentator John Ridley.
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