#ThrowbackThursday: Loving v. Virginia, 1967

Mildred and Richard Loving (The New York Times)

Mildred and Richard Loving (The New York Times)

Virginia newlyweds Richard and Mildred Loving were arrested shortly after their wedding in 1958. The reason? As Life magazine would later put it, “the crime of being married.”

The Lovings had violated Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which banned interracial relationships and marriage. The couple avoided prison time be agreeing to leave Virginia and not come back for 25 years.

In 1964, the couple took their case to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court. On June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Racial Integrity Act was unconstitutional. The decision made states’ anti-miscegenation laws unenforceable (though many of the laws remained on the books for years later).

Today, nearly 50 years later, the Loving v. Virginia case continues to resonate. In 2015, the decision was cited in Obergefell v. Hodges in arguments in favor of marriage equality to the case’s success. A documentary “The Loving Story” was released in 2011, and “Loving” was released in 2016 with Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the historic couple.

 

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Black Actor Oscar Nominations: By The Numbers

7 Best Supporting Actress Nominees Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and Naomie Harris (The Wrap)

7 Best Supporting Actress Nominees Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis and Naomie Harris (The Wrap)

Remember how the last couple of Oscar ceremonies were plagued by a lack of diverse nominees, especially in the major categories? The Academy has appeared to learn from that. The change has become especially clear in the acting categories. This year, each acting category has at least one Black nominee.

Here are the stats:

Best Actor: Denzel Washington (“Fences”)

  • Washington is now the most nominated Black actor in Oscar history. He’s had six previous nominations, two for Best Supporting Actor and four for Best Actor. He won Best Supporting Actor in “Glory” in Best Actor for “Training Day” in 2001.

Best Actress: Ruth Negga (“Loving”)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (“Moonlight”)

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (“Fences”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”), Octavia Spender (“Hidden Figures”)

  • This year is the first time an acting category has had three Black nominees. The last time an acting category had two Black nominees was in 1985, when Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey were both nominated for “The Color Purple.”
  • This is the second time the Best Supporting Actress category has had three non-white nominees. The first time was in 2007, with Jennifer Hudson for “Dreamgirls,” and Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi for “Babel” nominated.
  • Davis made history this year by becoming the first Black actress to score three Oscar nominations. Previously, Whoopi Goldberg was the only Black actress to have two Oscar nominations. She won the Oscar for her second nomination for her performance in “Ghost” in 1991.

Trends: Historic Interracial Couples on Film

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in 'Loving' (Evening Standard)

Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton in ‘Loving’ (Evening Standard)

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, the conversation around movies in Hollywood centered around the fact that there was no diversity. #OscarsSoWhite gained prominence during the national conversation. It seems the entertainment industry listened, because movies with diverse casts and themes will be released. Even better, a couple of movies will tell stories from history that need to be more widely known than they are.

The story of Virginia couple Mildred and Richard Loving are featured in Jeff Nichols’ Loving. Mildred, a Black woman (played by Ruth Negga), and Richard (Joel Edgerton), a white man, were arrested in 1958 for the crime of being married when interracial marriage was a crime. The Lovings’ ordeal to have their union be legally recognized led to the landmark Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case in 1967. The ruling struck down every anti-miscegenation law still on the books in 16 Southern states. (At least in theory; several states still tried to unofficially enforce the law.)

Too few people know this story, and I’m glad it’s gaining more recognition. The case is seen as a landmark in the struggle for civil rights, and can be regarded as the spiritual predecessor to the recent marriage equality fight and decision.

Loving isn’t the only historic interracial love story debuting this winter. Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom focuses on the story of Sir Seretse Khama (played by David Oyelowo), a member of the Bechuanaland Protectorate’s royal family, and Ruth Williams (played by Rosamund Pike), an English woman and Khama’s eventual wife. The Khamas’ romance and eventual marriage set off an international scandal which took years to rectify.

Director Asante’s previous feature was Belle, the true story of a mixed-race English woman in the 18th century. I enjoyed it, particularly because it was something I hadn’t seen before: a woman of color in a period costume drama. Asante won my attention and my dollars with that film, so I’m curious to see her new one as well.

Loving will be released on Nov. 4th, and A United Kingdom will be released Jan. 17, 2017.