The Right to Love: Loving v. Virginia and the American Civil Liberties Union

The film Loving, based on the Loving v. Virginia case, is now in expanded release in U.S. theaters.

When Mildred and Richard Loving were married in June 1958, twenty-four states still had anti-miscegenation laws. For this reason, Mildred, a black woman who was also of Rappahannock and Cherokee Indian descent, and Richard, a white man, were married in Washington, D.C. instead of their native Virginia, where both of their families had resided for generations. After they married, the Lovings settled in Central Point, Virginia. They were unaware that they would soon find themselves involved in one of the most significant legal battles of the civil rights movement.

On July 11, 1958, after receiving an anonymous tip, local authorities issued warrants charging the Lovings with attempting to evade Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages. The Lovings were indicted by a grand jury in Caroline County, Virginia and pled guilty in January 1959. They were convicted under Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code, which made it illegal for interracial couples to marry out of state with the intention of returning, and sentenced under Section 20-59, which declared interracial marriage a felony offense and punishable by between one to five years in prison. Initially, both Mildred and Richard were sentenced to one year in prison, but the sentences were suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return together for twenty-five years.

Cover page of the Supreme Court brief filed by the ACLU. American Civil Liberties Union Records: Subgroup 2, Project Files Series (MC001.02.02), Box 672, Folder 8

Cover page of the Supreme Court brief filed by the ACLU in the Loving case. American Civil Liberties Union Records: Subgroup 2, Project Files Series (MC001.02.02), Box 672, Folder 8

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