Mildred Loving was a black woman married to Richard Loving, a white man. They suffered discrimination and arrests over their outlawed marriage.
Learn about the Lovings and how their love story changed marital laws.
TheBeginning Of Mr. And Mrs. Loving
Mildred Jeter was a black 17-year-old teenager when she married Richard Loving, a 23-year-old white construction worker. Loving and Jeter met when Richard was 17 and Mildred 11. What began as a friendship grew into a simple, loving relationship between Jeter and Loving. They dated for two years before Mildred discovered she was pregnant. The couple, already in love, decided to marry.
Their life together was not as simple as their unrelenting love for each other. The two traveled to Washington D.C. to get married because, in 1958, laws banned interracial marriage in the State of Virginia.
A Not-So-Simple Marriage
The couple returned home after the ceremony and settled into life as a married couple. Their peaceful life quickly turned to disaster after someone provided a tip to local law enforcement officials about the interracial couple.
While explaining details about the couple who inspired the movie Loving, People explains that just five weeks after the couple’s marriage, the local county sheriff, along with two deputy sheriff’s, burst into the couple’s bedroom, startling Mildred and Richard from their sleep.
When questioned about what they were doing in bed together, Mildred responded that she was Richard’s wife, the sheriff reportedly responded, “That’s no good here,” and promptly arrested both Mildred and Richard on violation of the Virginia Racial Integrity Act.
Legal Charges And Court Battle
The court set a $1,000 bond for Richard Loving, paid by his sister the following day. However, Mildred was held with no bond. She spent three days in jail and was only released to her father.
At their court appearance, the couple pleaded guilty to violating Virginia’s law against interracial marriage. The judge gave the couple the option to go to prison or leave Virginia. He also said that if God intended for blacks and whites to mix, God would not have placed them on different continents.
For five years, the couple lived in Washington DC, raising children Donald, Peggy, and Sidney. Undeterred by the judge who banished them from Virginia and threatened to imprison Mildred and Richard, Mildred wrote to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, asking for his help after the couple was arrested again when visiting family members in Virginia.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that Kennedy referred the couple to the ACLU, whose attorneys then took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia. At the hearing in U.S. District Court, the judge essentially ruled the same as the local judge, saying that the fact that “Almighty God” separated the races shows that God did not intend for people of different races to marry.
Appeals And U.S. Supreme Court Decision
After the ACLU appealed the case to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeal, they suffered yet another setback when the court upheld the ruling against the Lovings’ and against interracial marriage in general.
The ACLU appealed the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. With novice lawyers representing the couple, the case moved forward with oral arguments starting in April 1967. Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the opinion for the court, who ruled that bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional. Eight years after winning their landmark case, Richard died in an automobile accident. Mildred died in 2008, from pneumonia.
The Movie Receives Critical Acclaim
The movie, Loving brings together Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga and white actor Joel Edgerton playing Mildred and Richard. The movie and actors received critical acclaim including an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination but, most importantly it’s the bravery of the Lovings that requires acclaim.