Loving v. Virginia is a landmark civil rights Supreme Court case in which laws prohibiting interracial marriage was invalidated. The case arose when Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were sentenced to a one-year prison sentence in Virginia, for marrying each other. According to state laws, at the time, their marriage violated the anti-miscegenation statute, known as the Racial Integrity Act of 1924.
This act required that a racial description of every person be noted at birth. It divided all of society into two categories: white and colored. It defined race by the “one-drop rule”, meaning if there was any African or Native American ancestry in someone’s blood, there were to be considered a “colored” person. The law overturned by the United States Supreme in court in its ruling on Loving v. Virginia. Anti-miscegenation laws weren’t uncommon in the United States at this time, they had existed in certain states since colonial days. In the Reconstruction Era in 1865, the Black Codes across seven states of the lower South made intermarriage illegal, but the new Republican legislatures in six of the states repealed the laws, deeming them restrictive.
When the Democrats returned to power, however, the restrictions were reimposed. One of the biggest concerns in the 1920s was where to draw the line and differentiate between black and white people in society, especially in a society where white men had several children with black slave women. The background of the case is extremely interesting to me because the case was brought to the surface by pure chance. On July 11th, 1958 a couple hours after midnight, Richard Loving and Mildred Loving were awakened to the presence of three officers in their bedroom. Apparently, a anonymous tip had been sent in to the local police, and they had been expecting to find the couple finding sex, as interracial sex was illegal in Virginia.
The police officers found the Lovings sleeping in their bed, while Mildred pointed out their marriage certificate on the wall. They were then told that even though their union took place in the District of Columbia, it was not valid in the state of Virginia. The Lovings were charged under Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code, which prohibited interracial marriage couples from being married out of state and then returning to the aforementioned state, and Section 20-59, which classified miscegenation as a felony, punishable by a prison sentence of one to five years. Early 1959, the Lovings pled guilty to “cohabitating as man and wife, against the peace and dignity act of the Commonwealth.” They had one of two options: the one year prison sentence or to leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years. After this conviction, the couple moved to D.C..