The Loving Legacy


As a teenager, the posters on my wall, cut out from various issues of Big and Smash Hits magazine were testament to my attraction to white men, but in reality I never even dreamed that a white man could be attracted to me.

I'm not sure where I got this idea from but before my ex-husband I had never even dated anyone who was not the same skin colour as me. At the time, living in the metro pot that is London, I knew of a few mixed race couples but they were all of the Black man-White woman variety. Suffice to say I found our whole relationship fascinating (huge LOL at 24-year-old Me) and it was in this fascination that I came across something called "Loving Day", celebrated annually on 12 June in the U.S. to mark the lifting of a ban on interracial marriage.

In the reading of the story behind it I was shocked to learn that interracial marriage was illegal in some U.S. southern states until the shockingly recent 1960s when a couple aptly named "Loving", decided to go for it anyway. Their journey (and battle) resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court decision to end the ban on interracial marriage in their home state of Virginia and all other states where the ban remained.

Depicted in the film, Loving, which goes on UK general release on 3 February (2017), the couple were not trying to make any big political statement, they just wanted to get married. This was echoed in the quiet but determined way the film is shot, without any real jaw-dropping scenes and with a leading couple who said very little to each other.

With current Hollywood favourite Ruth Negga as Mildred (nicknamed Bean for her skinny frame) and Joel Edgerton as husband Richard (Rich), the Lovings are played as the small-town, generally risk averse couple they appear to have been. Decisions are made quietly yet assuredly and they don't argue; when husband or wife speaks with conviction, the other concedes the point simply and willingly.

In Loving, the role of protagonist is given to Mildred, who is shown to make several key decisions in the film. But it would be a mistake to dismiss her husband's silent grunting for a man who is not fully involved in the process. As one of his (black) friends pointed out, he didn't have to marry Mildred, they could have continued to live as they were - after all she was already pregnant when he proposed. So although he may not have spoken much, in asking her to marry him he spoke perhaps the most important words of all.

It was 2008 when I first found out about the Loving family, the year my first white boyfriend and I got together and the year Mildred Loving died. This year marks 50 years since interracial marriage was allowed in Virginia and with everything going on in the world right now we could do worse this Valentine's Day than to remember this couple who lived a life and left a legacy synonymous with the name they fought so hard for them both to keep.

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