Thursday, March 04, 2010

Loving v. Virginia Link to Trinidad

Lot's of interesting news today (some I'll post later in the day). First up is an email from a movie producer working on a documentary film about Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple involved in the Supreme Court case that struck down interracial marriage bans. As you can see below, the producer says that the couple spent some time residing in Trinidad (about a block and a half from my house, actually). I haven't heard this before, and I haven't had time to explore it further, but it's cool news, and something I will pursue. The timing seems appropriate too following on the heels of the legalization of gay marriage.

Dear Trinidad and Ivy residents,

I am currently producing a film about Richard and Mildred Loving, the iconic couple whose struggle to be married across racial lines went all the way to the Supreme Court in 1967. You may know that during their court-imposed exile from Virginia, Richard and Mildred lived at 1151 Neal Street, NE, Washington DC, with one of Mildred's sisters, between 1959-1967.

As a part of our film we are searching for archival materials (photographs, old home movies, film footage, documents) that will help us visually establish what life was like in your neighborhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s. We are also looking for people who knew Richard and/or Mildred when they were living in DC, and would be willing to talk to us about their experiences with them.

If you have any old photographs or home movies of the area (or you know of somebody who does), please get in touch with me as soon as possible. I can be reached via e-mail at, or my mobile phone, 917-432-8684. I am coming to Washington DC early next week, and would be delighted to meet with you to see your materials, or to discuss our project with you. We have the full cooperation and support of the Loving family and their attorneys, and want to bring their amazing story to the screen with as much accuracy as possible.

You can read more about the film on our website:

Many Thanks,

Elisabeth Haviland James

Elisabeth Haviland James
Thornapple Films
(917) 432-8684
Skype: thornapplefilms


Feeling not so great today I left work early, so I have a little time to look at this further. A quick Google search pulls up a bit of info:

The Lovings did indeed live at that location during the time period mentioned. At least one essay states that they were staying with one of Richard Loving's cousins (Trinidad used to be a much more mixed neighborhood than it has been in recent decades). It appears that they were not full time residents there, but it seems to have been listed as their legal address, and they did live there portions of those years. At any rate, this is pretty interesting to me. I think it is also interesting to anyone who has ever taken a course in Constitutional Law, Family Law, or any sort of course on race and the law. The case has also been talked about a great deal in recent years during the gay marriage debates. The nexus there is not only the civil rights issue, and the marriage connection, but the fact that prior to her death less than two years ago Mildred Loving made a statement in support of gay marriage that was reported in the media.

The Loving case is probably as well known to even the casual scholar (I don't think that's a contradiction) of civil rights law as Brown (which iteration?) v. Board of Education or Heart of Atlanta Motel. It was hugely important, truly a landmark case. If you read the obituary above, you maybe struck by the similarity between the circumstances of the original arrest in Loving, and that in Lawrence v. Texas. In Loving, police, acting on an anonymous tip, burst in on the couple in bed (five weeks after they had been married in DC) and arrested both Lovings. In Lawrence, police, acting on an anonymous tip, burst in on two men in bed together and arrested them both. Thankfully, in DC at least, we've now not only recognized that what consenting adults do in their bedroom is their own business, but that two consenting adults have the right to marry as well. Kind of cool to think that a major stepping stone on the way took place right here in Trinidad.

After their arrests, the Lovings were given suspended one year sentences, and told not to return to Virginia at the same time for 25 years. They moved to Trinidad, and lived with relatives. In 1963, with the Civil Rights Movement in full swing, Mildred Loving wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy about her plight. He referred her to the ACLU, and from there it became history with a ruling issued by the Supreme Court in 1967 that struck down the last of the miscegenation laws in the United States (I believe 16 states had such laws at the time of the final decision).


Anonymous said...

Neat. Great timing and another cool bit of history about the neighborhood.

Sunny Florida Avenue said...

For anyone who has taken Family Law, this is SUPER cool news about our community. The Trinidad Neighborhood Association should erect a plaque or something, it would certainly improve law student tourism in the area.

Anonymous said...

I agree - that is a very cool piece of history of which I was totally unaware. I'd be interested in taking a look at the building (certainly not disturbing the current residents), but that address (i.e. 151) doesn't sound like it's in Trinidad. Does Neal St. continue down to N. Capitol?

Anonymous said...

I think the address given must be wrong Neal only runs from 1100 block to the 1600 block in Trinidad.

inked said...

It should read 1151 Neal Street. That was a typo in the original email that was later cleared up, but I changed the post a couple of times while I was writing it, and I must have pasted the original version by mistake. This is close to what used to be Holy Name.

There is actually a Neal Place in the Florida Market.

IMGoph said...

has anyone heard of any plans to have a cultural tourism DC history trail for our neighborhood? this would obviously be an important inclusion.

i'm intrigued about the history of the racial makeup of the neighborhood as well. it doesn't mention it in his obit, but i've read that former shadow rep. ray browne (who was caucasian) was born in trinidad. another bit of our history...

Robby said...

All things considered, then as in now Trinidad is a wonderful place to live, dine and explore.
To find more please go to

As for a plaque, that's a great idea, there is a Trinidad Neighborhood Association meeting the second Tuesday of every month at the Trinidad Rec. Center and I encourage you to attend and bring this topic up during the community concerns open forum.

Or contact
Telephone: (202) 596-TNA1

Anonymous said...

Is 1151 Neal the red house on google street view that when it was photo'd was under renovation?

inked said...

It's the blue gray one.

Mike said...

You want another cool tidbit? In October, my wife and I attended the National Equality March, holding the sign seen here:

On Thursday, I'm officiating at a same-sex marriage one block away from 1151 Neal.

Scott said...

Mildred Loving 6/12/2007:

"Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

Mike, see you Thursday! (we seem to frequent the same blogs- dcist, frozentropics)