The couple's decade-long fight for their right to be married in the State of Virginia is chronicled in the new movie titled Loving.
Directed by Jeff Nichols, the film follows the Lovings' journey all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where the outcome of their 1967 case finally deemed the country's anti-miscegenation laws as unconstitutional."I think this case shows how central interracial sex and relationships are to discrimination.
But at a time when protestors are still crowding the streets in the name of equal rights, the story of the Lovings is a reminder of how much work still needs to be done to improve the country's issues with race.
Less than 50 years ago, the same racist laws the Lovings were fighting against could have kept my own family apart: In the same year that the Lovings' case concluded in the Supreme Court, my father was born to an interracial couple.
My grandfather was Filipino and my grandmother was white; in California, where they were married, the anti-miscegenation laws forbade whites from marrying blacks, Asians, and Filipinos until 1948.
However, just a few weeks after the couple had returned to their hometown, they were charged with breaking the state's Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and were thrown in jail.
In exchange for a guilty plea, the judge suspended their potential one-year sentence as long as they left the state for 25 years—a difficult deal the Lovings agreed to.
You can connect it to the lynchings that occurred after black men were accused of either raping white women, or as was the case with Emmett Till, allegedly whistling at a white women," said Dennis Parker, the racial justice project director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in New York.
"There was something elemental about that type of discrimination."Even though the story takes place in the midst of the civil rights movement, the focus of Loving is to highlight the unbreakable bond between the couple without getting too deep into the politics.
When Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter fell in love in rural Virginia in the 1950s, they had no idea that one day they would become the subjects of a landmark civil rights case.
Loving, a white man, and Jeter, a black and Native American woman, grew up together in Central Point, an integrated small town.
At the time they wanted to marry, Virginia—along with dozens of other states—was still under strict anti-miscegenation laws that made it illegal to marry someone of a different race.
On June 2, 1958, the Lovings traveled 100 miles to Washington, DC, to wed.
In other states across the West such as Utah and Wyoming, similar anti-miscegenation laws were on the books until the early 1960s.