Richard and Mildred Loving: The Courageous Couple Whose Love Was Against the Law

Mildred and Richard Loving
Mildred and Richard Loving / Wikimedia Commons

On July 11, 1958, five weeks after being married, Richard and Mildred Loving awoke to flashlights and uniformed policemen hovering over their bed. An anonymous tip had led police to the couple for violating Virginia's Racial Integrity Act. Richard was white; Mildred was black. In 24 states, including Virginia, interracial marriage was illegal.

The Lovings' fight against that supreme injustice was the subject of Loving, a 2016 film directed by Jeff Nichols. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga portrayed the couple whose love was against the law, and who were forced to flee Virginia and face criminal charges for having wed. (The two were married in Washington, D.C., one of the places that recognized mixed-race unions.) Labeled felons, they were told never to return to their home while they were still together.

It would be years before the Lovings made progress, thanks in large part to the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union and volunteer lawyer Bernie Cohen. The case was eventually brought before the United States Supreme Court. Their 1967 ruling would break down the last of the legal barriers in the racial segregation that had divided the country for much of the decade.

To get a glimpse into the making of Loving, and the real-life couple behind the story, check out the video below.

This story has been updated for 2020.