1968 propelled history in dramatic fashion, much of it tragic. History teachers might await the 40th anniversary stories of 1968’s events, knowing that the newspapers and television specials will provide much richer material than any textbook could hope for.
Was 1967 less momentous? Perhaps. But an anniversary this week only serves to highlight how the entire decade was a series of turning points for the United States. This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s issuing the decision in Loving v. Virginia. The Lovings had been arrested, convicted and exiled from the state of Virginia for the crime of — brace yourself — getting married.
You see, Virginia in those days prohibited marriage between a black person and a white person. So did 15 other states. In language that is quaint and archaic to all but Biblical literalist creationists, the trial judge said:
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
The Lovings appealed their conviction. They appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down laws that prohibit a person of one “race” from marrying a person of another. (I put “race” in quotes because, as we have since learned from DNA studies, there is just one race among us, the human race. Science verifies that the Supreme Court got it right, as did the Americans before them who wrote the laws upon which the Supreme Court’s decision was based.)
From 1958 to 1967 — nine years the case wended through the courts. Oral argument was had on April 10 — the decision coming down in just two months seems dramatically quick by today’s standards. This was one of the cases that angered so many Americans against the Court presided over by Chief Justice Earl Warren.