An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

In 1958, Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, lived together in Virginia. Under state law, it was illegal for interracial couples to get married or to live together as though they were married. Because of the Racial Integrity Act, the Lovings travelled to the District of Columbia to get married there. Upon their return to Virginia as husband and wife the Lovings were arrested. The police knocked down their door in the dark of night. They were dragged out of bed and jailed. Richard was released on bail, but Mildred was forced to spend the weekend alone in jail. At the time she was pregnant.

Both Richard and Mildred were indicted for violating the Racial Integrity Act. They pleaded guilty to the charges. The Virginia trial judge proudly endorsed the miscegenation ban: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. 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 were sentenced to one year in prison. However, the trial judge suspended the sentence on the condition that the Lovings leave Virginia and not return for twenty-five years. In 1963, the Lovings filed a motion in state court to set aside their convictions.

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