Loving V Virginia Analysis Essay

Loving V. Virginia (388 U.S. 1)

On July 11, 1958 a couple of hours after midnight, Richard Loving a white man and Mildred Loving an African American woman were awakened to the presence of three officers in their bedroom. One of the three officers demanded from Richard to identify the woman next to him. Mildred, full of fear, told the officers that she was his wife, while Richard pointed to the marriage license on the wall. The couple was then charged and later found guilty in violation of the state's anti-miscegenation statute.
Mr. and Mrs. Loving were residents of the small town of Central point, Virginia. They were family friends who had dated each other since he was seventeen and she a teenager. When they learned that marriage was illegal for them in Virginia, they simply drove over the Washington, D.C. for the ceremony. They returned to Virginia and were arrested the following month for violating the anti-miscegenation statute, which was declared in the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. Commonwealth’s Attorney Bernard Mahon obtained the warrant for Richard Loving and “Mildred Jeter”. Mildred’s maiden name was on the warrant because in Virginia a marriage between a white and black was considered void. In October 1958, the indictments of Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were bought before the court and on January 6, 1959, Richard and Mildred pled not guilty to the charges. Changing their pleas to guilty and waiving their right to a jury trial due to fear and optimism for a favorable punishment, the Lovings took the plea bargain. The Circuit Court judge that was presiding over the case, Judge Leon M. Bazile, did not see favor on them and sentenced them to one year in jail. Yet, at the same time in agreement with the plea bargain, Judge Bazile suspended the sentence for 25 years provided that the Lovings would leave the state of Virginia immediately and not return together for the whole period. There was a catch, for when the 25 year period ends they would still face the prosecution of the court if they ever returned. He concluded his decision with this quote:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no case for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did intend for the races to mix.
Later, in a plea to the supreme court of appeals in Virginia as to the constitutionality of these provisions in the decision, the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia referred to The Equal Protection Clause stating that:
The definition of the offense must apply equally to whites and Negroes ... to the same degree. Thus, ... because its miscegenation statutes punish equally both the white and the Negro participants in an interracial marriage, these statutes, ... do not constitute an invidious discrimination based upon race.
The court also referred to its 1955 decision in “Naim v. Naim” as stating the reasons supporting the validity of the...

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Monday, June 12, marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which quashed anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states around the nation, ushering restrictions against interracial marriage to the wrong side of history. 

The date is now remembered as Loving Day in honor of Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who defied the state’s ability to dictate the terms of their love based on their skin color. Mildred, who was of African American and Native American descent, and Richard, who was white, wed in 1958 in Washington D.C., because interracial marriage was illegal in their native rural Virginia, as well as 15 other Southern U.S. states.

When the Lovings returned to Virginia, however, local police raided their home one early morning after being tipped off by another resident. They declared the Lovings’ marriage license invalid within the scope of the state, placing the couple under arrest.

The Lovings pled guilty to “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth,” and were sentenced to one year in prison. A judge later agreed to suspend the sentence if Mildred and Richard left Virginia and did not return for 25 years. 

The couple relocated to Washington, D.C., but they did not end their story there. In 1964, attorneys from the ACLU filed a motion on behalf of the Lovings, requesting the charges and sentences against the Lovings be dropped. The Lovings appealed the local ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, where their sentence was unanimously overturned in 1967.

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

Two years before this verdict, in the spring of 1965, Life magazine photojournalist Grey Villet spent time with the Lovings, as well as their family and friends, documenting the lives of a couple whose love had transcended the everyday to become the stuff of legends. 

Villet’s photo essay, titled “The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait,” captures Mildred and Richard when word of their civil rights battle was spreading throughout the country and the fate of their relationship remained unknown. Through black-and-white images, the photographer captures the subtle glances, spurts of laughter and moments of quiet determination that, together, comprise a love story whose power echoes today. 

We commemorate the Lovings’ bravery and tenacity in the face of prejudice and the systems of white supremacy. Villet’s photos help us remember the Lovings not just for what they represented, but who they were. The simple moments of connection, support and companionship that provided the strength to change the world. 

The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait is available on Amazon. 

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