Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Happy Loving Day!
As the descendent of at least two interracial couplings I have decided to celebrate Loving Day with a brief post.
Loving Day is an unofficial holiday that has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. It celebrates the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia in which Richard and Mildred Loving and their attorneys battled to end anti-miscegenation laws across the country. Richard and Mildred grew up as neighbors in a tiny rural town in Virginia. It was a mixed race community which appeared to generally accept the couple. Unfortunately, a few days after they were married the police came to their home in the middle of the night and arrested them for violating a state statute called the Racial Integrity Act of 1924.
The law not only seperated all people into classes, white and colored (meaning all non-whites), it also made it illegal for any non-"white" person to marry a "white" person. I use quotes in this case because the racial category was defined by the one drop rule but could also be contradicted by the person's appearance. If you couldn't prove someone was not white, by locating colored relatives or documentation stating otherwise and they looked white, then they were white.
The Lovings refused to annul their marriage so the plead guilty. In order to avoid spending at least a year in jail each, they moved briefly to Washington, DC to legalize their marriage. For years, the only way they could return to their hometown was after dark.
For more info on the case please see the below links.
For more information on Loving Day celebrations:
The Loving's story and the court case are important to my family because we are descended on my mothers side from William Fortson a white son of a planter and slave owner and his former slave and common law wife Mertis Thomas. William and Mertis began their relationship before Emancipation and it continued into the early 1900's. Their relationship was frowned upon before Emancipation but a white man having children by his black slave was not uncommon. What made their relationship illegal was that he only lived with her, never marrying a white woman, and they appeared to have carried on their relationship in the open. They never officially married which was probably a good idea. In the late 1800's the consequences for attempting to marry a person of another race ranged from jail time, to high fines to physical violence from members in the community.
In 1967 Loving v. Virginia changed all of that, though there have been modern cases where pastors or judges have refused to marry interracial couples. These cases are generally looked down upon by the vast majority of Americans, especially younger generations.
So thank you Richard and Mildred for struggling against an unfair racist law and allowing more Americans to marry the person they love. Next stop marriage equality!
Their Child :)