At the time of its original telling in LIFE magazine, coverage of Lovings vs. Virginia was one among many documenting civil rights cases during the 1960's. Now more than 40 years later what makes the story so compelling, is not just the courage of its participants but the love that drove them to fight for their cause. Married in the District of Columbia in 1958, Mildred and Richard Loving did not realize that by returning to their home state of Virginia they may be subject to arrest for the crime of miscegenation (mixing of races).But in the dead of the night a year into their marriage they were taken from their home and arrested for just that. Continue on left...

go to loving film sitego to ICP exhibit informationgo to NYTimes lens blog on photography <loving family at home>
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Top: The couple: Mildred and Richard Loving, The couple wiht family.
Right: at the local drag races where Richard was a race hobbiest.
Below The lovings at home, and their three children.

While state law decreed that they could have been jailed for up to 25 years, they were able to avoid incarceration by agreeing to leave the state (their families and friends) permanently. In time, this irked Mildred so much that she wrote to Bobby Kennedy, who referred the Lovings to the ACLU. Their case was taken by Bernie Cohen who eventually won their plea in Federal Supreme court with the argument that the Lovings had a right to "love" without regard to racial status, since love was and is, for all intents and purposes a "basic human right" as described by the Constitution. Continue on right....


The short picture essay that appeared in LIFE was not so much the story of a legal battle, but a love story. And that is in many ways, still the heart of the Lovings’ tale. In every frame the photos taken over a two week visit to their home by Grey Villet make it plain that the couple are a unit, tightly bound by love, mutual respect and friendship. It is fitting therefore that they became a symbol of love as an inalienable right.
Their story is now the subject of a documentary film entitled the "Loving Story." Click on the links on the left for more about the film, or the accompanying exhibition at International Center for Photography, and blog at the NY Times photography section Lens Blog.

*LIFE is a registered trademark of TIME Inc. Essay spreads are copyright to LIFE magazine/TIME Inc./Getty Images.
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