Monday, May 5, 2008

Rest Well Sweet Princess

The word has lost a hero for the ages. This just came across my desk from Yahoo News:

RICHMOND, Va. — Mildred Loving, a black woman whose challenge to Virginia's ban on interracial marriage led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling striking down such laws nationwide, has died, her daughter said Monday.

Peggy Fortune said Loving, 68, died Friday at her home in rural Milford. She did not disclose the cause of death.

"I want (people) to remember her as being strong and brave yet humble — and believed in love," Fortune told The Associated Press.

Loving and her white husband, Richard, changed history in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their right to marry. The ruling struck down laws banning racially mixed marriages in at least 17 states.

"There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the equal protection clause," the court ruled in a unanimous decision.

Her husband died in 1975. Shy and soft-spoken, Loving shunned publicity and in a rare interview with The Associated Press last June, insisted she never wanted to be a hero — just a bride.

"It wasn't my doing," Loving said. "It was God's work."

Mildred Jeter was 11 when she and 17-year-old Richard began courting, according to Phyl Newbeck, a Vermont author who detailed the case in the 2004 book, "Virginia Hasn't Always Been for Lovers."

She became pregnant a few years later, she and Loving got married in Washington in 1958, when she was 18. Mildred told the AP she didn't realize it was illegal.

"I think my husband knew," Mildred said. "I think he thought (if) we were married, they couldn't bother us."

But they were arrested a few weeks after they returned to Central Point, their hometown in rural Caroline County north of Richmond. They pleaded guilty to charges of "cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth," according to their indictments.

They avoided jail time by agreeing to leave Virginia — the only home they'd known — for 25 years. They moved to Washington for several years, then launched a legal challenge by writing to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who referred the case to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Attorneys later said the case came at the perfect time — just as lawmakers passed the Civil Rights Act, and as across the South, blacks were defying Jim Crow's hold.

"The law that threatened the Lovings with a year in jail was a vestige of a hateful, discriminatory past that could not stand in the face of the Lovings' quiet dignity," said Steven Shapiro, national legal director for the ACLU.

"We loved each other and got married," she told The Washington Evening Star in 1965, when the case was pending. "We are not marrying the state. The law should allow a person to marry anyone he wants."

After the Supreme Court ruled, the couple returned to Virginia, where they lived with their children, Donald, Peggy and Sidney. Each June 12, the anniversary of the ruling, Loving Day events around the country mark the advances of mixed-race couples.

Richard Loving died in a car accident that also injured his wife. "They said I had to leave the state once, and I left with my wife," he told the Star in 1965. "If necessary, I will leave Virginia again with my wife, but I am not going to divorce her."

As a woman who dates IR, I want to say thank you to this brave soul who fought so hard to be with the man she loved in spite of society, racists and the world. Love is a powerful thing, as well it should be. RIP Mr & Mrs. Loving. Know that the world is a better place for your having been here.

6 people feel me:

Felicity said...

We owe the Lovings a great debt. Thank you for this peace!

Nikki_Cola said...

She was certainly a hero. While in college, I studied their Supreme Court case in my Sociology of Law class. The thing I have to say about this is that black men have a black woman to thank for letting them have the opportunity to date white women.

simone said...

I am grateful to this couple. They were so brave to stand up against so much hatred. I sometimes look at how the world is and wonder if I should waste my time getting upset over the hatred. Why is it necessary? Why can't people just be people and judged on their character. That is the kind of behavior that makes me think people just don't give a shit. I don't care though. I refuse to let anyone stand in the way of me and my true love, who just happens to have different pigmentation. I know it sounds all fairy tale. But there is no simpler way to put it. It breaks my heart that the Lovings went through such an ordeal. I am just glad they got to spend the rest of their lives together.

Loving, what an appropriate name.That is what they kept them going through all the hate.

Erica said...

What a great couple. If it wasn't for them who knows how things would be like now.

LadyLin said...

I am grateful for their love and sacrifices made by the Lovings so that we can love and marry whomever we please in all 50 states.
May they find peace and each other once again in heaven.

Anonymous said...

I agreed Black men and Asian women need to thank the Black woman.These are the two groups who are dating out of their race the most.
Lol the Black man/society would like you to believed that White men are not attracted to Black women,but it was a White man/Black woman who fought to have the law changed.