Child Watch® Column: "#LoveWillWin"

Release Date: June 24, 2016

Marian Wright Edelman

…When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day
This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love
Cannot be killed or swept aside...

– From a sonnet by Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton, June 2016

Sunday, June 12, America woke up to news of the worst mass shooting in our gun-soaked history. A celebration of Latin Night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando turned into a killing field fueled by intolerance, hate and weapons of war. Now is the time to remember those who stand up and stand together in love.

Dear Sir:


I am writing to you concerning a problem we have.
5 yrs. ago my husband and I were married here in the District. We then returned to Va. to live. My husband is White, I am part negro, and part indian.
At the time we did not know there was a law in Va. against mixed marriages.
Therefore we were jailed and tried in a little town of Bowling Green.
We were to leave the state to make our home.
The problem is we are not allowed to visit our families. The judge said that if we enter the state in the next [25] yrs., that we will have to spend 1 yr. in jail.
We know we can’t live there, but we would like to go back once and awhile to visit our families and friends.
We have 3 children and cannot afford an attorney.
We wrote to the Attorney General, he suggested that we get in touch with you for advice.
Please help us if you can. Hope to hear from you real soon.

Yours truly,
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Loving

-Letter by Mrs. Mildred Loving, June 1963


In 1963, young wife and mother Mrs. Mildred Loving decided to write a letter to U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy about a “problem” her family was facing. Four years later Mrs. Loving, who was Black, and her husband Richard, who was White, made history when their struggle to have their marriage recognized in their native Virginia led to the landmark 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia overturning the remaining laws in Virginia and other states that banned interracial marriage. The couple, who shunned the spotlight, made it clear they never set out to be social revolutionaries. It was simple: they loved each other, wanted to marry, and beyond that, as Mrs. Loving said, “It was God’s work.”

The two first met in the early 1950s when she was 11 and he was 17 in Central Point, Virginia, the small community where they both grew up. They became young sweethearts, and in 1958, when Mildred became pregnant, they decided to get married. They drove to Washington, D.C., for their marriage license, and Mrs. Loving later said she initially thought they were doing that because less paperwork was required there. But Richard already understood something she didn’t: Getting a marriage license as a mixed-race couple would have been illegal and impossible in Virginia.

Mr. Loving may not have known how the state would treat legal interracial marriages that had been performed elsewhere, but five weeks after their wedding the newlyweds received a very literal rude awakening: Acting on a “tip,” sheriff’s deputies surrounded their bed with flashlights at two in the morning demanding to know why they were there together. Their reply that they were husband and wife made no difference. The Lovings were arrested, and Mr. Loving was held in jail overnight while the pregnant Mrs. Loving was forced to stay for several days. Both were charged with cohabitation and violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act. Under a plea bargain, in order to avoid a year-long jail sentence they were forced to leave the state and were prohibited from returning together for 25 years.

The Lovings settled in Washington, D.C., and began raising a family there but quickly missed the small town where they had spent their entire lives. Five years later, inspired by the March on Washington and the wave of new civil rights laws, Mrs. Loving decided to write to U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy to ask if any of the new legislation would allow them to return to Virginia, even just to visit. He responded and suggested the Lovings contact the ACLU, where over the next few years dedicated lawyers helped take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court justices ruled 9-0 that Virginia’s law and all others like it were unconstitutional, and that the freedom to marry was “a basic civil right.”

Mr. and Mrs. Loving soon returned to their hometown with their three children. Sadly their own happiness ended in tragedy in 1975 when Mr. Loving was killed and Mrs. Loving lost the sight in one eye in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. But the Lovings had paved the way for thousands of other couples like themselves who were marrying the people they loved. Thanks to God’s work and the Lovings’ love, my husband Peter and I were the very first interracial couple to be married in Virginia after the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Mrs. Loving never remarried and lived quietly at her home in rural Caroline County, Virginia until she passed away in 2008. But a year before her death, the widow, grandmother, and great-grandmother sent another groundbreaking letter. This time, it was a public statement submitted just before the Massachusetts Legislature’s historic vote reaffirming marriage equality, and read aloud at a 40th anniversary celebration of the Loving v. Virginia decision:

 “When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married . . . My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

“Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

“I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

In a heartbreaking moment of terroristic hatred fueled by a larger sea of vitriolic and divisive rhetoric, racial and ethnic intolerance, pervasive hate crimes, prejudice, and discrimination against gay people, and guns, guns, guns we let remain the only unregulated consumer product despite their massive lethality, it is critical to listen again to Mrs. Loving’s words. We cannot be consumed by bigotry and violence. It’s way past time to disarm hate.

Let us know what you think about this column:

Enter this word: Change


Here's what others have said:

Submitted by peace at: September 21, 2016
touches the soul; love conquering hat

Submitted by L at: June 25, 2016
Our God is a loving God and He loves all of His children. God Bless Mr. and Mrs. Loving and their love for each other, no matter what. Their story is one for the ages. God can and God will! Hallelujah!!!

Submitted by Lizzie Q at: June 25, 2016
Enormous gratitude for this piece, and for the courage and love of the Lovings and the Edelmana and untold thousands who have dared to love in the face of hatred.

Submitted by Char at: June 25, 2016
What a wonderful story......not about racism, but about Mrs' Loving's letter to Robert Kennedy, and then that it paved the way for you to historic first in Virginia. Love is love, is love.. praying for an end to all this violence fueled by hate and enabled by weaponry that has no reason to be used outside of war.

Submitted by TT at: June 25, 2016
I so appreciate your commentary and your prayers and care and concern for the least, the lost and the left out among our American society. I have taken your advice given to me three years when I asked you, "What steps can I take to make a difference in children's lives in Chattanooga, TN, as a result of attending the 20th Anniversary of the Samuel Proctor Institute?" You advised me to return to my city and to identify two to three other people who believe in the work needed for children in your community and return to Proctor Institute for additional opportunities to listen, learn and to plan for further organizing and actions to take when you return home. I am excited and registered to attend the Proctor Institute later next month, along with another member of my church who volunteers in our Independent Youth Services INC initiatives, services and college tours. While I believe God is moving us toward establishing a Freedom School in Chattanooga, I remain open to what the Spirit of the Lord continues to reveal as we walk in faith and obedience. Thank you again for your seemingly tireless efforts to be a voice crying in the wilderness for our children. Love and strength for your journey! Theresa Turner Chattanooga, TN

Submitted by Anonymous at: June 25, 2016
Dear Marian, for many years I have enjoyed your columns and your call to justice, hope and love in the face of so much injustice, discouragement and hate. God bless you for your clear, persistent and strong voice! With gratitude, Jean Veenema-Birky

Submitted by Chris at: June 25, 2016
Isn't it time?. Thanks for sharing Mrs. Loving's inspiring words.

Submitted by Jim at: June 24, 2016
Wonderfully correct.

Submitted by Jim at: June 24, 2016
Wonderfully right.

Submitted by Jim at: June 24, 2016
Of course, people have the right to marry anyone they choose. Fundamentalist religionists are wrong in so many ways.

Submitted by A South Carolina grandmother at: June 24, 2016
Yes, it IS time www disarm hate. Congress voted down those 4 amendments complain gin there was no due process... well then add it in! It is shameful. And worrisome.

Submitted by Peace and love at: June 24, 2016
I agree wholeheartedly with every word in this article. We will win against hate and divisiveness with love.

Submitted by Towanda at: June 24, 2016
Ms. Marian each week writes a column that I always read. This week I am sending this around to friends who walked away, turned around and rejected the love of my life because we are women who love women and there is no place in their world for us. Mrs Loving "got it",Ms. Marian "got it' and writes without judgement the hope and belief that love will win. Love is love is love is love

Submitted by Mandy at: June 24, 2016
Thank you, to Milard & Richard , What an inspiration the Loving family has given us all!