The Quest for Loving: Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry by Peter Wallenstein
On August 6 at noon, Peter Wallenstein delivered a Banner Lecture entitled "The Quest for Loving: Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry."Mildred Jeter was not a white woman. Richard Loving, all agreed, was a white man. So Virginia state law not only rendered their 1958 marriage illegal but also required a penalty for it of at least a year in prison. Circuit Court Judge Leon F. Bazile chose, though, to suspend their prison sentences if they agreed to leave the state. After a few years of exile, the Lovings sought legal assistance to let them return home, and this they obtained from Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop. The court appeal elicited from the judge a declaration that “Almighty God created the races” and, intending that they never cross racial lines and marry, “placed them on separate continents.” Two young lovers, two young lawyers, and an elderly local judge—this talk explores their tangled biographies on the way toward a breakthrough Supreme Court ruling in 1967, a ruling that resonates down to the present.Peter Wallenstein is an award-winning professor of history at Virginia Tech. His many books include Cradle of America: A History of Virginia and Race, Sex, and the Freedom to Marry: Loving v. Virginia.