By June 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving had grown up together, fallen in love and married, settling in Caroline County, VA. Several weeks later, police invaded the Loving’s home around 2 a.m. Loving told the police she was his wife, and they responded, stating, “No, you’re not.”
The Loving’s daughter, Peggy Fortune, and their attorney, Bernard Cohen, spoke at the University of Mary Washington for the Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series in Dodd Auditorium on Feb. 14, 2012. They also showed clips from “The Loving Story,” a documentary on the Loving’s struggle as an interracial couple living in Virginia.
The 20-58 Virginia Code prohibited the Lovings, as an interracial couples, to be married outside of state and return. They were sentenced to one year in jail until the trial judge suspended the sentence and prohibited the Lovings from returning to Virginia for 25 years.
At the lecture, Fortune and Cohen discussed the details of the Loving’s Supreme Court case and its effect on interracial couples over 40 years later.
The Lovings filed a lawsuit against Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. At the time of Loving v. Virginia, 24 states had laws against interracial marriage. The case then gained the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union and became part of a larger effort to overturn interracial marriage bans.
“This case, in my opinion, was destined to go to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Cohen said.
The Lovings left Washington D.C. and returned to Virginia after the Supreme Court ruled in their favor on June 12, 1967.
“It was nothing but love that made them go through that,” Fortune said.
Fortune reflected upon the memory of her parents, stating, “I want them to be remembered by the love they had for each other.”
Over 40 years ago, Mildred Loving spoke to ABC News about her case that defeated anti-miscegenation laws.
“I think marrying who you want is a right no man should have anything to do with. It’s a God-given right,” said Mildred Loving.
Greta Franklin, Associate Director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center, hopes the students will learn from The Lovings.
“What they should take away is the activism of it in a way that [The Lovings] weren’t trying to be revolutionary… It was more of they loved each other and wanted to be together.”
“The Loving Story” was directed by Nancy Buirski and produced by Buirski and Elizabeth Haviland James. According to the University of Mary Washington website, “The film has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Because democracy demands wisdom.”
William Crawley, associate professor of history and American studies, concluded the Great Lives lecture stating, “Normally with an applause we express appreciation for the speaker, tonight I think it’s more than that. It’s an appreciation for what these people have done.”