Mark Loving, the grandson of Mildred Loving, says his grandmother is being “racially profiled” in the upcoming film Loving.
Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter’s 1958 marriage in Virginia would change the course of history when it came to interracial marriages. Loving was a white man and Jeter was a black woman, and their marriage was a violation of Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act. It led to a Supreme Court case that eventually overturned the antiquated law.
But Mark Loving says his grandmother wasn’t black: In an interview with Richmond, Va’s., NBC12, he says she was Native American.
“I know during those times, there were only two colors: white and blacks,” Mark Loving said. “But she was Native American; both of her parents were Native American.”
Mark Loving also says he has proof—his grandparents’ marriage license, on which his grandmother was classified as “Indian.”
However, there may be a simple reason she was labeled Indian, and that is some old Virginia history.
Writer Arica L. Coleman wrote about the Loving family in a Time article earlier this year. Mildred Loving did speak about her background and said that she was Native American, but Coleman delved into how that designation probably came to be.
In 1930, legislators, fearing that blacks would use the Indian claim to subvert the law, restricted the Indian classification to reservation Indians on the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Reservations in King William County, the nation’s oldest reservations. Numerous non-reservation citizens claiming an Indian identity circumvented the restriction by marrying in Washington, D.C., where they were able to obtain marriage licenses with the Indian racial designation.
Mildred Loving was no exception. Her racial identity was informed by the deeply entrenched racial politics of her community in Central Point, Va.
Interestingly enough, Coleman also spoke with one of the Lovings’ lawyers, Bernard Cohen, and he said that Mildred Loving identified only as black to him.
We can probably assume that Mildred Loving was no different from some black people you meet who want to assert their Native American heritage, but as noted in Professor Henry Louis Gates’ popular article, the truth of the matter is that just because you have “high cheekbones and straight black hair” doesn’t mean you have Native American blood.
However, as far as Mark Loving is concerned, his grandmother wouldn’t be OK with the upcoming Loving film because, he says, her true identity is being erased and she wasn’t trying to be an activist.