She didn’t set out to be an uppity woman…

…but Mildred Loving, just by marrying her childhood sweetheart, broke a color barrier fifty years ago:

Loving and her white husband, Richard, changed history in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their right to marry. The ruling struck down laws banning racially mixed marriages in at least 17 states.

“There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the equal protection clause,” the court ruled in a unanimous decision.

Her husband died in 1975. Shy and soft-spoken, Loving shunned publicity and in a rare interview with The Associated Press last June, insisted she never wanted to be a hero — just a bride.

“It wasn’t my doing,” Loving said. “It was God’s work.”

One can credit whomever one wants. But whether she saw a loose brick and kicked it deliberately, as Rosa Parks did, or whether she dislodged it just by stumbling across it–Mildred Loving, she of the appropriate married surname, brought down a wall which was shoddily built, served an immoral purpose, and could no longer be allowed to stand.

She will be missed.

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