The Beginning

Richard Loving was born in 1933 and Mildred Jeter in 1939. They both grew up in Caroline County, Virginia and their lives were constantly intertwined. Even though they both attended segregated schools, the area in Caroline County where they lived in Central Point, had been a visible mixed-race community since the 1800s.1 Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, required all residents to be classified as “white” or “colored”, which did not specify the difference between people of African or Native American descent. Mildred had both African-American and Native American family ancestry. Richard was white but was friends with Mildred’s older brothers. He often would go to the Jeter’s house, which is where he met Mildred.2 They started dating in the early 1950s when Richard was 17 and Mildred was 11. A few years later, Mildred became pregnant with their first child together, but her second, so they decided to get married. However, they could not in the state of Virginia due to miscegenation laws, which banned interracial marriage. They were forced to get married in Washington D.C. and had the ceremony at a local Reverend’s house in June 1958.3 They returned to Virginia immediately after and moved into Mildred’s house. They lived together peacefully in Central Point for several weeks, until Sheriff Garnett Brooks, Deputy Sheriff Massie Samuel, and Jailer H.Q. Taylor, forced their way into the home during the night and told the couple that their license was not valid in Virginia.4 They were subsequently arrested and thrown in jail. Richard was bailed out a day later, but Mildred stayed several days in jail. During this time, Mildred was just under seven months pregnant when she stayed in jail for several days. In October of the same year, and just a few days after Mildred’s second child was born, the couple was indicted by a Caroline County Grand Jury, who ruled that they violated the miscegenation laws and were charged, “…for the crime of going out of state, marrying, and returning.”5 The couple later returned to court for their sentencing.

This was the women’s cell in the County jail, where Mildred stayed for several days. Image Courtesy of Jacob Martin
  1. Peter Wallenstein, Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving v. Virginia (Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2014,) 68. ↩︎
  2. Sheryll Cashin, Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy (Boston: Beacon Press, 2017,) 100. ↩︎
  3. Wallenstein, Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry, 80. ↩︎
  4. Cashin, Loving, 108-109. ↩︎
  5. Wallenstein, Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry, 83. ↩︎