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Fifty years later, it seems absurd to most of us that such laws ever existed in the first place. In June, many Americans marked Loving Day —an annual gathering to fight racial prejudice through a celebration of multiracial community. The event takes its name from the Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Many decried it as judicial overreach and resisted its implementation for decades. The case that brought down interracial marriage bans in 16 states centered on the aptly named Richard and Mildred Loving.
Inthe pair were arrested in the middle of the night in their Virginia home after marrying the month before in Washington, D. The Lovings chose exile over prison and moved to D. Kennedy, who in turn referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union. Inonly 3 percent of newlyweds were interracial couples. Today, 17 percent of newlyweds and 10 percent of all married couples differ from one another in race or ethnicity.
Anti-miscegenation laws in the United States
Inin contrast, 91 percent of Americans believe interracial marriage to be a good or at least benign thing. Today, few would publicly admit to opposing interracial marriage. In fact, most Americans now claim to celebrate the precepts behind Loving and the case has become an icon of equality and of prejudice transcended. Accordingly, individuals across the political spectrum, from gay rights activists to opponents of Affirmative Action who call for colorblindness, cite it to support their political agendas.
And 50 years on, many of their effects remain. Founding Myth, Foundational Rejection The first recorded interracial marriage in American history was the celebrated marriage of the daughter of a Powhatan chief and an English tobacco planter in Matoaka, better known as Pocahontas, did not wed Captain John Smith as the Disney version of her life implies.
Instead, she married John Rolfe as a condition of release after being held captive by English settlers for more than a year. She died in England soon thereafter and the peace brokered with the marriage collapsed. The first laws proscribing interracial relationships, however, did not pertain to Native-English unions but to ones colonial leaders feared would upend the social order because they could promote alliances between indentured servants and slaves.
The situation of the children free or slave followed the situation of the mother. Inthree years after the U. The bans in Virginia and Maryland were established at a time when slavery was not yet fully institutionalized.
At the time, most forced laborers on the plantations were indentured servants, and they were mostly European. Some historians have suggested that the at-the-time unprecedented laws banning "interracial" marriage were originally invented by planters as a divide-and-rule tactic after the uprising of European and African indentured servants in cases such as Bacon's Rebellion.
According to this theory, the ban on interracial marriage was issued to split up the ethnically mixed, increasingly "mixed-race" labor force into "whites," who were given their freedom, and "blacks," who were later treated as slaves rather than as indentured servants.
By outlawing "interracial" marriage, it became possible to keep these two new groups separated and prevent a new rebellion.
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After American independence[ edit ] Inseven out of the Thirteen Colonies that declared their independence enforced laws against interracial marriage. Although slavery was gradually abolished in the North after independence, this at first had little impact on the enforcement of anti-miscegenation laws. An exception was Pennsylvaniawhich repealed its anti-miscegenation law intogether with some of the other restrictions placed on free blacks, when it enacted a bill for the gradual abolition of slavery in the state.
The Quaker planter and slave trader Zephaniah Kingsley, Jr. These views were tolerated in Spanish Floridawhere free people of color had rights and could own and inherit property. After Florida became a U. Abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison took aim at Massachusetts' legal ban on interracial marriage as early as Anti-abolitionists defended the measure as necessary to prevent racial amalgamation and to maintain the Bay State's proper racial and moral order.
Abolitionists, however, objected that the law, because it "distinguished between 'citizens on account of complexion,'" violated the broad egalitarian tenets of Christianity and republicanism as well as the state constitution's promise of equality.
Beginning in the late s, abolitionists began a several-year petition campaign that prompted the legislature to repeal the measure in Their efforts—both tactically and intellectually—constituted a foundational moment in the era's burgeoning minority-rights politics, which would continue to expand into the twentieth century.
Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina and Alabama legalized interracial marriage for some years during the Reconstruction period.
Anti-miscegenation laws rested unenforced, were overturned by courts or repealed by the state government in Arkansas  and Louisiana . However, after white Democrats took power in the South during " Redemption ", anti-miscegenation laws were re-enacted and once more enforced, and in addition Jim Crow laws were enacted in the South which also enforced other forms of racial segregation.
A number of northern and western states permanently repealed their anti-miscegenation laws during the 19th century. This, however, did little to halt anti-miscegenation sentiments in the rest of the country. Newly established western states continued to enact laws banning interracial marriage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Between and30 out of the then 48 states enforced anti-miscegenation laws.
Anti-miscegenation laws and the U. Constitution[ edit ] At least three proposed constitutional amendments intended to bar interracial marriage in the United States were introduced in Congress. King proposed this amendment because he predicted correctly, as the case of Loving v. Virginia later demonstrated that the Fourteenth Amendmentratified in to give equal civil rights to the emancipated ex-slaves the Freedmen as part of the process of Reconstructionwould render laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional.
In December and JanuaryRepresentative Seaborn Roddenbery Democrat of Georgia again introduced a proposal in the House of Representatives to insert a prohibition of miscegenation into the US Constitution and thus create a nationwide ban on interracial marriage.
According to the wording of the proposed amendment, "Intermarriage between negros or persons of color and Caucasians In his proposed amendment, anyone with "any trace of African or Negro blood" was banned from marrying a white spouse. Roddenbery's proposed amendment was also a direct reaction to African American heavyweight champion Jack Johnson 's marriages to white women, first to Etta Duryea and then to Lucille Cameron.
InJohnson had become the first black boxing world champion, having beaten Tommy Burns. After his victory, the search was on for a white boxer, a "Great White Hope", to beat Johnson.
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Those hopes were dashed inwhen Johnson beat former world champion Jim Jeffries. This victory ignited race riots all over America as frustrated whites attacked celebrating African Americans.
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