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8 Events Leading Up to Supreme Court Decision in Loving v. Virginia

By    |   Saturday, 04 Jul 2015 08:12 PM

The 1967 case in which a unanimous Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage, Loving v. Virginia was one of several high court rulings of the era that rolled back racial segregation and helped to spur the U.S. civil rights movement.

Here are eight events that paved the way for Loving v. Virginia.

1. Colonial Law
In 1691, the slave-holding colony of Virginia — not yet a state — passed its first law banning interracial marriage, declaring that "whatsoever English or other white man or woman being free shall intermarry with a negroe, mulatto, or Indian man or woman bond or free shall within three months after such marriage be banished and removed from this dominion forever," according to Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia joined the union as a state in 1788.

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2. Pace v. Alabama
In 1883, the Supreme Court upheld an Alabama law forbidding interracial sexual relations, ruling in Pace v. Alabama that such laws were constitutional as long as they punished whites and blacks equally for the offense of race-mixing, according to Justia.

The court went on to craft a racial doctrine of "separate but equal" in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which upheld state laws that segregated public spaces.

3. Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson, a boxing champion and celebrated black athlete who scandalized early 20th Century America by dating and marrying white women, was convicted in 1913 of violating a federal anti-human trafficking law for a relationship with a white prostitute, PBS reported.

The law is the White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910, also called the Mann Act. Although rarely used, it has never been repealed, and neither the Bush nor Obama administrations have granted Johnson the posthumous federal pardon sought on his behalf by members of Congress, McClatchy News Service reported in 2013.

4. State Laws
The Virginia state laws at issue in the Loving case were the Racial Integrity Act, passed in 1924 to define race according to bloodlines, and a 1950 statute that specified imprisonment of 1-5 years for the crime of racial intermarriage.

The 1924 law mandated that birth records carry racial data, and it ordered county clerks' offices to deny marriage licenses to couples that couldn't prove their whiteness — although a trace of Native American blood was permissible for whites under what was called the "Pocahantas exception," according to Discover.

5. The Couple
The mixed-race couple that sued Virginia to overturn the law was Richard and Mildred Loving of rural Caroline County. They married in Washington, D.C., in June of 1958. They returned home, were arrested, jailed, tried and convicted, and appealed their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

6. Florida Law
In McLaughlin v. Florida in 1964, the Supreme Court struck down a Florida law banning interracial couples from living together and, in the process, rejected the equal-punishment reasoning of the 1883 Pace v. Alabama decision, Justia said.

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7. UNESCO Paper
A 1964 paper by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), "Biological Aspects of Race," asserted that "no biological justification exists for prohibiting intermarriage between persons of different races, or for advising against it on racial grounds."

The UNESCO paper would be cited by Chief Justice Earl Warren during the April 1967 oral arguments for Loving v. Virginia in Warren's Q&A with Virginia Assistant Attorney General R.D. McIlwaine III, according to Virginia Law Review.

8. Decline of Anti-Miscegenation Laws
By the time Loving was decided in 1967, anti-miscegenation laws that forbade interracial marriage and intimacy were on the decline. Nine states and the District of Columbia had never had such laws, and another 25 states had repealed theirs or seen them overturned, according to a count compiled by the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

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The 1967 case in which a unanimous Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage, Loving v. Virginia was one of several high court rulings of the era that rolled back racial segregation and helped to spur the U.S. civil rights movement.
Loving Virginia, events, leading up
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2015-12-04
Saturday, 04 Jul 2015 08:12 PM
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