Last year I posted on the couple whose landmark case broke the back of racist anti-miscegenation laws.
That couple was Mr. and Mrs. Richard and Mildred Loving.
Read about their story here.
The Loving’s story was first broadcast March 31, 1996 in a made-for-TV presentation entitled Mr. and Mrs. Loving, starring Timothy Hutton and Lela Rochon, presented by Hallmark Home Entertainment.
But never before has a documentary been done of this shy and retiring couple’s life.
At the time the Lovings married on June 2, 1958, sixteen states, including Virginia, still prohibited interracial marriage. Richard Perry Loving, a White man, and his wife, Mildred Jeter Loving, a woman of Black American and Rappahannock (Native-American) descent, lived in Virginia. Nine years before in 1958, the Lovings traveled to Washington, D.C. and married. They returned to Virginia expecting to make a life there, but, five weeks after they were married, while they were sleeping, the police burst in on them at 2:00 a.m. and arrested them for breaking the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. During their time in jail, Mildred and Richard were housed on separate floors.
On January 6, 1959, after pleading guilty to the charge against them, they were sentenced to one year in jail. The sentence was suspended for 25 years “on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years.”
They left Virginia and moved to Washington, D.C. After facing housing discrimination in Washington, D.C., and missing not living close to their families, Mildred wrote a letter to then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy forwarded the letter to the American Civil Liberties Union and attorney Bernard S. Cohen took their case.
Bernard Cohen teamed up with another lawyer, Philip Hirschkop, to work on the case with him. They took the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. As his lawyers were leaving for Washington to argue the couple’s case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, they asked Richard if he had any message for the Justices. He told them” “Tell the Court I love my wife.”
On June 12, 1967, the court unanimously declared Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 unconstitutional thereby ending all race-based marriage bans in the United States. Almost to the date, the Lovings received a wedding present from the U.S. Supreme Court that would go down in history.
The last two states that were holdouts repealed their laws well after 1967: South Carolina in 1998 and Alabama in 2000.
Grey: No laws passed
Green: Repealed before 1887
Yellow: Repealed from 1948 to 1967
Red: Overturned on June 12, 1967
While Richard and Mildred were fighting their history-making battle, Loving vs. Virginia, LIFE magazine photographer Grey Villet traveled to Virginia to cover the case. His photos give us a more intimate look into the lives of this courageous and loving couple, their family, their dedication to each other, their daily life routine in Virginia and the state they loved.
Director Nancy Buirski, during the filming of her documentary, “The Loving Story,” discovered Villet’s photos and included them in her film.
Estate of Grey Villet: Mildred Loving and her daughter, Peggy.
The Villet photos will be on view at the International Center of Photography in New York City from January 20 through May 6, 2012.
Richard and Mildred Loving.
Two people who considered themselves ordinary, who did the most extraordinary, and in their actions made a lasting and profound effect on the most sacred of vows that a citizen can make.
Estate of Grey Villet: Richard and Mildred Loving in the spring of 1965.