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Mildred Loving was a Civil Rights activist in the 1960s. She and her husband successfully defeated Virginia's ban on interracial marriage.
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Activist. Born Mildred Delores Jeter on July 22, 1939, in Central Point, Virginia. The shy, somewhat soft-spoken Mildred became a reluctant activist in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s when she and her husband, Richard Loving, successfully challenged Virginia's ban on interracial marriage.
Her mother was part Rappahannock Indian and her father was part Cherokee. Throughout her life, Mildred referred to herself as Indian rather than black. Mildred's family had deep roots in the area around Central Point, a part of Virginia, which even at the height of the Jim Crow era, had developed a reputation as a place where race relations were fairly friendly.
The girl who was so skinny that she was nicknamed "Bean" was just 11 years old and attending an all-black school when she first met Richard Loving, a 17-year-old high school student. Quietly, the two eventually started dating and, when Mildred became pregnant at the age of 18, the two decided to get married.
Barred from marrying in their home state, the couple drove 90 miles north to Washington, D.C. to tie the knot. They'd been married just a few weeks, living in Central Point, when in the early morning hours of July 11, 1958, the county sheriff, acting on an anonymous tip that the Lovings were in violation of the law, stormed into the couple's bedroom with a pair of deputies.
"Who is this woman you're sleeping with?" the sheriff asked the startled Richard Loving. Mildred offered up the answer: "I'm his wife." When she pointed out the couple's marriage certificate hanging on the wall, the sheriff coldly replied, "That's no good here."
Richard ended up spending a night in jail, the pregnant Mildred several more, and the couple eventually pleaded guilty to violating Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which recognized citizens as "pure white" only if they could claim white lineage all the way back to 1684. The Lovings' one-year sentences were suspended, but the plea bargain came with a price: The couple was ordered to leave the state and not return together for 25 years.
"Almighty God created the races white, white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents," Judge Leon M. Bazile ruled. "And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."
The Lovings followed orders. They paid their court fees; relocated to Washington, D.C.; had three children; and only rarely made separate return visits to see friends and family.
But by 1963, the Lovings decided they'd had enough.
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