A 2016 historical drama film entitled Loving is making waves this year due to the stellar portrayal of stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the controversial couple Richard and Mildred Loving. The latter were the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Writer-director Jeff Nichols gave due prominence to a remarkable legal case which helped change America’s ugly Jim Crow race laws in the 50s and 60s. Unsurprisingly, the movie was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. The film’s release date in the US will be on November 4, 2016.
In 1958 Virginia, a reserved mechanic and construction worker named Richard Loving (a white man) married his pregnant girlfriend Mildred Jeter (a black woman). The two drove to Washington, D.C. to make their union official. They naturally wanted to return to their home-state Virginia where their families lived, and also where interracial marriages at that time are against the law. The Lovings defied orders to leave the state, found themselves harassed and inevitably locked up. However with the help of Bobby Kennedy and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), they were able to take the couple’s case all the way to the Supreme Court.
When the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Loving v. the Commonwealth of Virginia, defendants Richard and Mildred Loving chose not to appear in person. In 1958, they had been convicted for the felony of miscegenation. As lawyers presented their arguments, 17 states remained steadfast in their refusal to repeal such laws banning interracial marriages. Although he did not attend the arguments, Richard sent a message to the justices: “Tell the Court I love my wife and it is just not fair that I cannot live with her in Virginia.” Eventually on June 12, 1967, proscriptions against interracial marriage were declared unconstitutional.
In the years since, the couple’s victory has often been seen as the benchmark in the fight for black civil rights. In the US, the 12th of June (the date of the decision) is known as the Loving Day, an annual unofficial celebration of interracial marriages.