The movie Loving caught my eye not only because it’s a love story with a perfect title, but because it is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple in Virginia during the Jim Crow era and the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.
The movie comes out today, and if you’re planning on seeing it (as I am), then you might want to know a bit about the real story behind the Hollywood version.
Richard and Mildred were married on June 2, 1958, in Washington D.C., roughly a 2-hour drive from their home in Caroline County, Virginia, which at that time had laws against interracial couples marrying. They returned home after getting married and lived together as husband and wife. At about 2am on July 14, 1958*, Police burst into their home and arrested them for violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. After pleading guilty to breaking the law by being married and cohabitating together, their plea-bargain punishment was banishment from Virginia for 25 years. They moved to Washington D.C., but it as never home — they wanted to go back, and in order to do so they needed help.
Mildred wrote to Robert Kennedy, who was at that time the Attorney General. Kennedy referred them to the ACLU, which took on the Loving’s case at no charge. The Loving’s case eventually ended up before the Supreme Court, and on June 12, 1967, the court found unanimously in their favor by striking down Virginia’s law. This allowed the Lovings to return to Caroline County, and it also ended the ban on interracial marriages in other states.
Even though they didn’t set out to become famous or an example to others, the Lovings became both. In a 1992 interview, Mildred Loving said, “What happened, we really didn’t intend for it to happen, what we wanted, we wanted to come home.”
Here’s a BBC documentary on the couple …
Part 1/3 (it may not play depending on where you live — sorry!)
You can read the September 1967 Ebony article about the Lovings here.
You can read Mildred Loving’s biography here.
You can read the March 18, 1966, LIFE article about the Lovings here.
Are you going to see Loving? Let me know what you think about it if you do. 🙂
*Dates given by Mildred Loving in the HBO documentary.