The Un-“Loving” Nation
History 112: The United States After 1865
December 6, 2017
In 1958, nearly a month after being happily married in
Washington D.C., Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter were dragged out of their
beds at 4 a.m. in their Virginia home. Mildred, a black woman, and
her husband Richard, a white man, were arrested because the couple violated Virginia’s
laws 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 they
all believed would come from being freed by the 13th amendment.
However, that was not the case, and blacks continued to be oppressed throughout
America through the use of Jim Crow Laws, the Ku Klux Klan, and by State
Governments. The 50’s and 60’s became the breeding ground for the most
influential period of the Civil Rights movement. In 1957, a Civil Rights Act
was passed, stating that anyone who attempted to inhibit someone from voting
would face federal prosecution. This led to the use of perplexing literacy
tests and other assessments by states in order to limit people from voting,
specifically blacks. This continued a spiral of unfair treatment due to the
fact that by “1960, 7.5% of black people were illiterate in comparison to
whites only being 1.6% illiterate, also by 1960, only 42 percent of
males, 25 years old and over, still had completed no more education than the
eighth grade.”1 Oppression showed itself to black people in many forms,
such as segregation, miscegenation, and general discrimination against people
of color by the white communities.
Segregation had been a part of American culture since
slavery, blacks were slaves and whites were free. Americans kept the blacks
segregated even after they were freed through the use of different companies in
the military designated for blacks, schools only for blacks, restaurants, water
fountains, bathrooms, etc. only for black people. Although the civil war had
ended and blacks had been freed since 1865, in the 1950’s black people were
still fighting for fair and even treatment. In “The Loving Story” a historical
clip of someone shows them saying “I feel God had a purpose in creating the
races separate, I am so proud of negroes proud to be negroes, and I’m proud of
whites who are proud to be white, I am proud to be white, and I am only white
because my parents practiced segregation.”2
In America at this time, there was a strong belief that the reason the races
should be segregated is because God created them separately and therefore only
those races should mix within each other. This is incredibly blind reasoning and
goes against what God says in Galatians 3:28 that “There is neither Jew nor
Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you
are all one in Christ Jesus.”3
This verse alone argues against any form of segregation saying God created
everyone equal and that in his eyes we are all the same as long as we have
accepted Jesus Christ. In “The Loving Story”, we also see how Richard and
Mildred are treated by the community, and when they are with black or mixed
folks, the videos and images shown are sweet and happy ones. But then when
white 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-no
in 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 if
related. As harsh and as terrible as that sounds, this was white America’s
standpoint on the issue in general, specifically southern white America. All of
those states practiced Jim Crow Laws, segregation and miscegenation laws during
the time. Finally, 1954 rolled around the Civil Rights act of 1954 ended any
and all segregation laws at the state level. Sadly, this did not end
miscegenation laws and that is why Richard and Mildred Loving had to take their
case to the courts. In 1963, Mildred Loving wrote a letter to the Attorney
General Robert F. Kennedy, who forwarded her letter to the American Civil
Liberties Union which would begin the fight to end miscegenation laws in
Miscegenation is defined by dictionary.com as “marriage or
cohabitation between two people from different racial groups.”5
Even after the segregation laws were abolished, miscegenation laws were still
present and enforced in the southern states. These such laws are the reason
Richard and Mildred Loving were arrested in 1958. At the time they were just
two normal people who were in love and wanted to live together in their
Virginia home, they had no ambitions of becoming civil rights activists, but
just like other Black American’s at the time, they were fighting for their
right to be married. A review of the film cites that in society today with
people who are driven by fame, it is remarkable to see the “self-effacing
modesty of these two undeniable national heroes”6.
These were normal, humble people who all along were just trying to love each
other in their home even in the wake of this incredible accomplishment that was
abolishing miscegenation. The director shows this in the film by using
interviews that raved about the kindness and humbleness of the Loving’s and by
using music that always painted a happy, yet calm setting when showing video of
them 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’s
to tell the story in their own way, unbiased from activists and outside
agenda’s.”7 The film is from the voice of the people
being held down by miscegenation laws. The film only offers one narrative, that
the love between the Loving’s was too strong to be held down by law, and that
by one way or another they would be given the chance to live happily ever
after. Finally, on June 12, 1967, the fight was over. “The Supreme Court
unanimously struck down Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriages as a
violation of the 14th Amendment.”8
As the Columbia Missourian states “things began happening immediately in almost
all of the states where miscegenation laws had once ruled.”9
In 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 mixed
couples began to marry. In a book by Peter Wallenstein, he states that “this unheard-of
ability to marry between races would give hope to the fight for same-sex
couples right to marry”10.
This was an issue that became prevalent shortly thereafter the Loving ruling
when in 1971, the Gay Activists Alliance demanded same-sex marriage rights at
New York City’s Marriage License Bureau. This fight for gay marriage would be
shot down continuously for 45 years until Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, which
cited Loving v. Virginia in one of the reasons the same-sex marriage ban was
unconstitutional. Another issue the
movie brings up is the downright mistreating and hatred of blacks by white
folks and white supremacy groups. The fight for true equality between race, was
still very real.
In America, in the 60’s and 70’s, (and still today), blacks
have been discriminated against solely based on the color of their skin. This
is shown heavily throughout the film with clips of white people sharing their
hatred for blacks. In a specific clip from the movie, a Ku Klux Klan member is
shown 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 and
unacceptable, and goes against God’s natural law.”12
But the truth is, a feeling of hatred toward blacks was not just shown through
people speaking, but acting on their hatred. In the film a Caroline County
native states that the Sheriff at the time liked black people less than anyone
else did, and was a known racist. He says that “he would beat the blacks up and
arrest them for whatever he wanted, he was the Sherriff.”13
In 1955, a young boy named Emmitt Till, apparently whistled at a white woman
which in turn caused a group of white men to beat him to death, gouge one of
his eyes out, and weigh his body down by tying it to a cotton gin in the
Tallahatchie River. On September 15, 1963, a church was bombed in Alabama
killing 4 young black girls and injuring 26 other young black children readying
to sing in their Sunday Choir. The bombing was claimed by the Ku Klux Klan, a
white supremacy group who are the poster children for black hate, who were
infamous for mobbing, lynching, and hanging of blacks. This hatred and putting
down of blacks for hundreds of years finally started to come to light in
America, and although these terrible things were happening, the Civil Rights
movement 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 equal
in the eyes of the law. But when the mistreatment never ended, peaceful
protests for equality turned violent. In August of 1965 in Los Angeles, the
black community had had enough. On Avalon Drive a group of people began to
watch white police arrest a black man. As spectators believed they were
“watching racially motivated abuse by police, they grew angry and a riot soon
began. The rioters ranged over 50 square miles, and the five days of violence
tallied up 34 dead, 1032 injured, nearly 4000 arrested and $40 million worth of
These riots led to others in Newark, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan, both in
1967. But who is truly at fault for these riots? It’s easy to point a finger
and say clearly the looters, and rioters are at fault for this violent
outbreak, but what about the events that led up to the violent outbreak of
these people? Are white American’s not at some level, if not completely guilty
for these outbreaks? Mistreatment, hate, segregation, miscegenation, and
discrimination were only things these folks had faced in their life-time. Not
to mention the 400 years of slavery and the 100 years of outright oppression
after 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 treated
equally by the majority of whites. Now that all of these laws were making the
black man equal, white American’s had to bend the rules to still attempt to keep
blacks down. Segregation took new a new form known as redlining. Redlining is
the practice of denying or increasing the cost of services, such as banking,
insurance, access to jobs, access to health care, and even supermarket prices. This
was put to an end in 1968 with the Fair Housing Act that prevented redlining
based on race, religion, gender, familial status, disability, or ethnic origin,
and later againt through the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 that required
banks to apply same lending criteria in all communities. Black people began to
get a little taste of freedom and equality, but no more than just that.
As shown through numerous historical
events, black people have been oppressed and discriminated against by white
America for hundreds of years. The 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s were vitally
important times for the civil rights movement. Through the Civil Rights Act of
1954, The Voting Acts, Loving V. Virginia, Brown v. The Board of Education, and
numerous other important court rulings and laws, more was done for black
equality in this time than at any time in history outside of Lincoln’s passing
of the 13th amendment. Segregation played a key role in defining
American society, especially in the south, but was finally put to a legal end.
Miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia, by two
easy going folks who only ever intended on being able to love each other in
their Virginian home. Finally, the issue of treating blacks as second class was
coming to an end. Blacks were beginning to be seen as equal to all other races
and as a more liberally social mind began to shape in America, blacks were given
the tools to be regular Americans, and not second class citizens.
Blay, Zeba. The Loving
Story. Online News Article, Directed by Nancy Buirsky (2011; HBO) DVD.
“Excerpts From Supreme Court Ruling on Virginia’s Ban
on Miscegenation.” The New York
Times, June 13, 1967.
History.com Staff. “Watts Riots.” History.com, Accessed December 3, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/watts-riots.
“Interracial Marriage III.” Columbia Missourian, February 18, 1968.
Miscegenation. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, Unabridged. Random House, Inc.
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/miscegenation (accessed: December 3, 2017).
David. The Loving Story, Online News
Article, directed by Nancy Buirsky. (2011; HBO) DVD.
Snyder, Tom. “National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL).”
National Center for Education Statistics
(NCES) Home Page, a part of the U.S. Department of Education. 1993. http://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp.
Wallenstein, Peter. Race,
Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving v. Virginia. University Press of
Kansas, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1qft37f.
1 Tom Snyder, “National Assessment of Adult
Literacy (NAAL),” National Center
for Education Statistics (NCES), Home Page, a part of the U.S. Department
of Education, 1993. https://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp.
2 Buirsky, Nancy, dir. The Loving Story. 2011, HBO.
3 Gltns. 3:28 ESV.
4 Buirsky, Nancy, dir. The Loving Story. 2011, HBO.
Dictionary.com, s.v. “miscegenation.”
David Noh, The Loving Story, Online
News Article, Directed by Nancy Buirsky (2011; HBO) DVD.
Zeba Blay, The Loving Story, Online
News Article, Directed by Nancy
Buirsky (2011; HBO) DVD.
8 “Excerpts From Supreme Court Ruling on
Virginia’s Ban on Miscegenation.” The
New York Times, June 13, 1967.
Marriage III.” Columbia Missourian,
February 18, 1968. http://cdm.sos.mo.gov/cdm/ref/collection/colmo2/id/68716.
10 Wallenstein, Peter. Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving v. Virginia. University
Press of Kansas, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1qft37f.
11 Buirsky, Nancy, dir. The Loving Story. 2011, HBO.
Buirsky, Nancy, dir. The Loving Story. 2011, HBO.
History.com Staff, “Watts Riots,” History.com,
accessed December 3, 2017.