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Thu, 06.22.1939

Mildred Loving, Activist born

Mildred Loving

*Mildred Loving was born on this date in 1939. She was a Black activist.

Born Mildred Delores Jeter, she was of African American and of Native American (Rappahannock) descent.  She met Richard Loving a white man when she was 11 and he was 17.  He was a family friend and years later they began dating.  They lived in the Commonwealth of Virginia, where interracial marriage was banned by a 1924 statute.  When she was 18 she became pregnant, and the couple decided to marry; traveling out of Virginia to do so.  She later stated that she did not know it was illegal when they married in 1958, but she believed her husband did.

They returned to Virginia and were arrested in the middle of the night by the county sheriff, who had received an anonymous tip.  The Lovings moved to the District of Columbia after being banned from living together in their home state but returned to Virginia after the Supreme Court decision.  Loving said she considered her marriage and the court decision to be God’s work, and she supported everyone’s right to marry whomever they wished.  In 1965, when the case was pending, she told the Washington Evening Star, “We loved each other and got married. We are not marrying the state. The law should allow a person to marry anyone he wants.”

On June 12, 2007, Mildred Loving issued a statement on the 40th anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision. Her statement concluded: “My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God's plan to keep people apart and that government should discriminate against people in love.  But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation's fears and prejudices have given way, and today's young people realize that if someone loves someone, they have a right to marry.  Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the 'wrong kind of person for me to marry.  I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.  Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others; especially if it denies people’s civil rights.  I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

Mildred and Richard Loving had three children, Donald, Peggy, and Sidney Loving.  Mildred Loving died on May 2, 2008.

The Associated Press
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