The Un-“Loving” Nation Sean O’HaraHistory 112: The United States After 1865December 6, 2017In 1958, nearly a month after being happily married inWashington D.C., Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were dragged out of theirbeds at 4 a.m. in their Virginia home. Mildred, a black woman, andher husband Richard, a white man, were arrested because the couple violated Virginia’slaws on interracial marriages. Across the country in the 50’s and early 60’s disgruntled,”free” black American’s fought for their equal opportunity and civil rights theyall believed would come from being freed by the 13th amendment.However, that was not the case, and blacks continued to be oppressed throughoutAmerica through the use of Jim Crow Laws, the Ku Klux Klan, and by StateGovernments.
The 50’s and 60’s became the breeding ground for the mostinfluential period of the Civil Rights movement. In 1957, a Civil Rights Actwas passed, stating that anyone who attempted to inhibit someone from votingwould face federal prosecution. This led to the use of perplexing literacytests and other assessments by states in order to limit people from voting,specifically blacks. This continued a spiral of unfair treatment due to thefact that by “1960, 7.5% of black people were illiterate in comparison towhites only being 1.
6% illiterate, also by 1960, only 42 percent ofmales, 25 years old and over, still had completed no more education than theeighth grade.”1 Oppression showed itself to black people in many forms,such as segregation, miscegenation, and general discrimination against peopleof color by the white communities. Segregation had been a part of American culture sinceslavery, blacks were slaves and whites were free.
Americans kept the blackssegregated even after they were freed through the use of different companies inthe military designated for blacks, schools only for blacks, restaurants, waterfountains, bathrooms, etc. only for black people. Although the civil war hadended and blacks had been freed since 1865, in the 1950’s black people werestill fighting for fair and even treatment. In “The Loving Story” a historicalclip of someone shows them saying “I feel God had a purpose in creating theraces separate, I am so proud of negroes proud to be negroes, and I’m proud ofwhites who are proud to be white, I am proud to be white, and I am only whitebecause my parents practiced segregation.
“2In America at this time, there was a strong belief that the reason the racesshould be segregated is because God created them separately and therefore onlythose races should mix within each other. This is incredibly blind reasoning andgoes against what God says in Galatians 3:28 that “There is neither Jew norGreek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for youare all one in Christ Jesus.”3This verse alone argues against any form of segregation saying God createdeveryone equal and that in his eyes we are all the same as long as we haveaccepted Jesus Christ. In “The Loving Story”, we also see how Richard andMildred are treated by the community, and when they are with black or mixedfolks, the videos and images shown are sweet and happy ones. But then whenwhite people talk about Richard and Mildred, it’s a completely different story.They say what Richard is doing by mixing with the colored folks is a “big no-noin the community”4,and even a woman related to Richard (presumably his niece by the explanation)states that she always said to others she was no kin to him when asked ifrelated.
As harsh and as terrible as that sounds, this was white America’sstandpoint on the issue in general, specifically southern white America. All ofthose states practiced Jim Crow Laws, segregation and miscegenation laws duringthe time. Finally, 1954 rolled around the Civil Rights act of 1954 ended anyand all segregation laws at the state level. Sadly, this did not endmiscegenation laws and that is why Richard and Mildred Loving had to take theircase to the courts.
In 1963, Mildred Loving wrote a letter to the AttorneyGeneral Robert F. Kennedy, who forwarded her letter to the American CivilLiberties Union which would begin the fight to end miscegenation laws inAmerica. Miscegenation is defined by dictionary.com as “marriage orcohabitation between two people from different racial groups.”5Even after the segregation laws were abolished, miscegenation laws were stillpresent and enforced in the southern states.
These such laws are the reasonRichard and Mildred Loving were arrested in 1958. At the time they were justtwo normal people who were in love and wanted to live together in theirVirginia home, they had no ambitions of becoming civil rights activists, butjust like other Black American’s at the time, they were fighting for theirright to be married. A review of the film cites that in society today withpeople who are driven by fame, it is remarkable to see the “self-effacingmodesty of these two undeniable national heroes”6.These were normal, humble people who all along were just trying to love eachother in their home even in the wake of this incredible accomplishment that wasabolishing miscegenation. The director shows this in the film by usinginterviews that raved about the kindness and humbleness of the Loving’s and byusing music that always painted a happy, yet calm setting when showing video ofthem being intimate, or discussing the case with people. One film review states”the most important aspect of this documentary was that it allowed the Loving’sto tell the story in their own way, unbiased from activists and outsideagenda’s.”7 The film is from the voice of the peoplebeing held down by miscegenation laws. The film only offers one narrative, thatthe love between the Loving’s was too strong to be held down by law, and thatby one way or another they would be given the chance to live happily everafter.
Finally, on June 12, 1967, the fight was over. “The Supreme Courtunanimously struck down Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriages as aviolation of the 14th Amendment.”8As the Columbia Missourian states “things began happening immediately in almostall of the states where miscegenation laws had once ruled.”9In January of 1968 in Florida, a judge ruled that James Van Hook, a negro,could marry a white woman named Liane Peters. After this, almost all mixedcouples began to marry.
In a book by Peter Wallenstein, he states that “this unheard-ofability to marry between races would give hope to the fight for same-sexcouples right to marry”10.This was an issue that became prevalent shortly thereafter the Loving rulingwhen in 1971, the Gay Activists Alliance demanded same-sex marriage rights atNew York City’s Marriage License Bureau. This fight for gay marriage would beshot down continuously for 45 years until Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, whichcited Loving v.
Virginia in one of the reasons the same-sex marriage ban wasunconstitutional. Another issue themovie brings up is the downright mistreating and hatred of blacks by whitefolks and white supremacy groups. The fight for true equality between race, wasstill very real.In America, in the 60’s and 70’s, (and still today), blackshave been discriminated against solely based on the color of their skin. Thisis shown heavily throughout the film with clips of white people sharing theirhatred for blacks. In a specific clip from the movie, a Ku Klux Klan member isshown saying that “no matter what, there will never be a n****** in this room,and we can praise God for that”11,and in another scene a woman says that “blacks and whites mixing is wrong andunacceptable, and goes against God’s natural law.
“12But the truth is, a feeling of hatred toward blacks was not just shown throughpeople speaking, but acting on their hatred. In the film a Caroline Countynative states that the Sheriff at the time liked black people less than anyoneelse did, and was a known racist. He says that “he would beat the blacks up andarrest them for whatever he wanted, he was the Sherriff.”13In 1955, a young boy named Emmitt Till, apparently whistled at a white womanwhich in turn caused a group of white men to beat him to death, gouge one ofhis eyes out, and weigh his body down by tying it to a cotton gin in theTallahatchie River. On September 15, 1963, a church was bombed in Alabamakilling 4 young black girls and injuring 26 other young black children readyingto sing in their Sunday Choir.
The bombing was claimed by the Ku Klux Klan, awhite supremacy group who are the poster children for black hate, who wereinfamous for mobbing, lynching, and hanging of blacks. This hatred and puttingdown of blacks for hundreds of years finally started to come to light inAmerica, and although these terrible things were happening, the Civil Rightsmovement was in full force. The passing of the Civil Rights act, Loving V.Virginia, and Voting Acts, led to black American’s finally being seen as equalin the eyes of the law. But when the mistreatment never ended, peacefulprotests for equality turned violent. In August of 1965 in Los Angeles, theblack community had had enough.
On Avalon Drive a group of people began towatch white police arrest a black man. As spectators believed they were”watching racially motivated abuse by police, they grew angry and a riot soonbegan. The rioters ranged over 50 square miles, and the five days of violencetallied up 34 dead, 1032 injured, nearly 4000 arrested and $40 million worth ofproperty damaged.”14These riots led to others in Newark, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan, both in1967. But who is truly at fault for these riots? It’s easy to point a fingerand say clearly the looters, and rioters are at fault for this violentoutbreak, but what about the events that led up to the violent outbreak ofthese people? Are white American’s not at some level, if not completely guiltyfor these outbreaks? Mistreatment, hate, segregation, miscegenation, anddiscrimination were only things these folks had faced in their life-time. Notto mention the 400 years of slavery and the 100 years of outright oppressionafter slavery and that brings us to only the 1960’s. Where for the first time,blacks are seen as equal in the eyes of the law, yet still could not be treatedequally by the majority of whites. Now that all of these laws were making theblack man equal, white American’s had to bend the rules to still attempt to keepblacks down.
Segregation took new a new form known as redlining. Redlining isthe practice of denying or increasing the cost of services, such as banking,insurance, access to jobs, access to health care, and even supermarket prices. Thiswas put to an end in 1968 with the Fair Housing Act that prevented redliningbased on race, religion, gender, familial status, disability, or ethnic origin,and later againt through the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 that requiredbanks to apply same lending criteria in all communities. Black people began toget a little taste of freedom and equality, but no more than just that. As shown through numerous historicalevents, black people have been oppressed and discriminated against by whiteAmerica for hundreds of years.
The 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s were vitallyimportant times for the civil rights movement. Through the Civil Rights Act of1954, The Voting Acts, Loving V. Virginia, Brown v. The Board of Education, andnumerous other important court rulings and laws, more was done for blackequality in this time than at any time in history outside of Lincoln’s passingof the 13th amendment. Segregation played a key role in definingAmerican society, especially in the south, but was finally put to a legal end.Miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia, by twoeasy going folks who only ever intended on being able to love each other intheir Virginian home.
Finally, the issue of treating blacks as second class wascoming to an end. Blacks were beginning to be seen as equal to all other racesand as a more liberally social mind began to shape in America, blacks were giventhe tools to be regular Americans, and not second class citizens.BibliographyBlay, Zeba. The LovingStory. Online News Article, Directed by Nancy Buirsky (2011; HBO) DVD.”Excerpts From Supreme Court Ruling on Virginia’s Banon Miscegenation.” The New YorkTimes, June 13, 1967.History.
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” TheNew York Times, June 13, 1967.9 “InterracialMarriage III.” Columbia Missourian,February 18, 1968. http://cdm.
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