47 Years Ago, This Couple Changed Interracial Relationships Forever

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Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving fought for the right for interracial couples to marry 40 years ago.

Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving

Reported by Andrew Scot Bolsinger

Long before gay marriage became a national crusade for equality, a white man and black woman took their love to the highest courts for the right to marry.

Perhaps the most notorious, brazen mixed-race marriage in American history is celebrated on June 12, which marks the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling to declare bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional.

The marriage between Mildred Jeter, a 17-year-old black woman, and Richard Loving, a 23-year-old white man, was considered illegal in 16 states back then. The courageous couple lived in Virginia, at the turbulent dawn of the Civil Rights Movement that ignited across the South.

The couple wed in 1958 in Washington, D.C., where interracial marriage was legal. However, upon their return home to Virginia, the newlyweds were charged with unlawful cohabitation and jailed.

“During their sentencing, the judge presiding over the case gave the pair a choice: Spend a year in prison, or don’t return to Virginia for 25 years. They chose the latter,” a story on Huffington Post states.

In his decision, Judge Leon M. Bazile said: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents…. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Five years later, the couple contacted the American Civil Liberties Union to try to reverse the judge’s decision, which eventually led to the landmark decision by the highest court in the land.

“Under our Constitution,” Chief Justice Earl Warren said of the court’s decision, “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Richard died just years after the decision in a car crash in 1975. Mildred never remarried and died in 2008.

“They just were in love with one another and wanted the right to live together as husband and wife in Virginia, without any interference from officialdom,” Bernard Cohen, the ACLU volunteer attorney who took on their case, told NPR on the decision’s 40th anniversary in 2007.



  1. kookie

    June 13, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    What does gay marriages have to do with interracial marriage.

  2. Corbin

    June 13, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    What a wonderful couple they were!! Thank you for paving the way for me and my husband. This story is such an inspiration. I keep their story on my DVR for days when I need a little extra encouragement. The world is so cruel but they pulled through and so have I.

  3. kimberly

    June 13, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Keeping fingers crossed that Judge Leon M. Bazile the racist piece of trash that he was is now residing in HELL!

  4. Mister Reginald

    June 13, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Please, please, please stop equating inter-racial marriage with homosexual marriage or the desire for homosexuals to marry. It is not the same and never will be the same. This is just as foolish as equating what homosexuals go through with the recital inequalities and struggles of those from African descent and other minorities have endured. Don’t be seduced or duped by the homosexual agenda and please don’t twist the truth.

  5. Mister Reginald

    June 13, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    Sorry for the typo. The word in line three should be racial.

  6. nell

    June 15, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Mr Reginald
    Any injustice is wrong and should not be tolerated.

  7. Ann G.

    July 28, 2014 at 11:51 am

    As a Black woman never had the desire for anything White, I just prefer my men Black for others it is their choice, I have no problem with it one way or the other. Since I am not God or his son, It is not my business to judge!

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