Interracial Relationships That Changed History

Throughout history, interracial relationships have encountered numerous challenges, but some couples have defied the odds and made a significant impact on society. Here are a few noteworthy examples:

Mildred and Richard Loving

On July 11, 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving, who had just gotten married, were woken up by three police officers storming into their bedroom. They were taken from their home and thrown into jail because their marriage was illegal in the state. This was because 24 states in the USA had laws that didn’t allow people from different races to marry. Just five weeks before this happened, the Lovings found out that Mildred was going to have a baby. They decided to get married even though it was against the law. To avoid getting in trouble in Virginia, they got married in Washington, D.C. When they returned to Virginia, they were arrested and found guilty. The judge told Mildred that she’d be known as a criminal for the rest of her life. The Lovings moved to Washington for safety but they wanted to go back home. In 1963, they asked the American Civil Liberties Union for help. After a long legal fight, the Supreme Court decided in June 1967 that laws against interracial marriage were not allowed. Even though some states still had these laws, the Lovings’ win meant that they couldn’t be enforced, making sure others wouldn’t be treated the same way. The last law against interracial marriage was removed in Alabama in 2000.

Ruth Williams Khama and Sir Seretse Khama

During her time at law school in England, Ruth met Sir Seretse Khama, who later became Botswana’s first president. Ruth was a politically active and influential First Lady while Sir Seretse Khama led the country to significant economic and social progress. However, their marriage faced opposition due to prejudice. Ruth was thrown out of her family home by her father when they announced their marriage, and Sir Seretse Khama’s uncle threatened to fight him to the death if he brought his white wife home. The British government tried to stop the marriage and prevented the couple from returning to Botswana. They lived in exile in England for eight years until the Bamangwato tribe protested their treatment of the Queen. Their sons, Ian and Tshekedi, also became important political figures. Their marriage has been the inspiration behind the filmA Marriage of Inconvenienceand the bookColour Bar.”

Arcadio Huang and Marie-Claude Regnier

During the early 18th century, European scholars greatly improved their understanding of the Chinese language and culture. A young man named Arcadio Huang played a significant role in this progress. Born in a small town in China’s Fujian province, Huang’s parents wanted him to become a priest. He was later adopted by a French priest and traveled to France with Bishop Artus de Lionne. In France, he collaborated with young French scholars to create a Chinese-French dictionary.

In 1713, Huang married a middle-class Parisian woman named Marie-Claude Regnier. Marriages between Europeans and non-Europeans were rare during this time, but Marie-Claude’s parents approved of their union. Shortly after, Marie-Claude tragically passed away while giving birth to their first child. Overcome with grief, Huang passed away a year later. Historians have suggested that their unique marriage was one of the first of its kind.

Gonzalo Guerrero and Zazil Ha

The first people of Spanish/Mayan heritage had an interesting story. Gonzalo Guerrero, who survived a shipwreck off the Yucatan coast, was captured by the Maya. To avoid being killed, he learned the Maya language and customs and even taught them Spanish combat tactics. This helped the Maya resist the conquistadors. Guerrero married a princess and became a respected figure in Mayan society. When Hernan Cortez tried to bring him back to the Spanish, Guerrero refused, saying he was married and had children, and was a respected leader among the Maya.

Louisa and Louis Gregory

Louis Gregory, an African American man, and Louisa Mathews, a British woman, both belonged to the Bahá’í faith, which promotes unity. They met in 1911 on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in Egypt. Unfortunately, their relationship faced opposition, especially in the United States, due to prevalent racism. Despite the Bahá’í faith’s emphasis on the “Oneness of Mankind,” racial segregation was common among the faith’s followers in Washington, D.C.

In 1912, with the support of Bahá’í leader Abdu’l-Bahá, Louis and Louisa became the first interracial Bahá’í couple by getting married in New York. Louis Gregory dedicated himself to advocating for racial unity, drawing inspiration from his faith’s teachings. Their marriage lasted for almost 40 years until Louis Gregory passed away in 1951.

Leonard Kip Rhinelander and Alice Jones

In 1921, Kip Rhinelander, a white socialite from New York, met Alice Jones, who was biracial, in Stamford, Connecticut. They had a three-year love affair before getting married in 1924. Their marriage caused a stir in the media and Kip’s family demanded that he divorce Alice. During the divorce trial, Kip claimed that Alice had pretended to be white. The trial focused on whether Kip knew about Alice’s mixed heritage. In a degrading move, Alice was asked to undress in front of the all-white, all-male jury to determine her race. The court ruled in Alice’s favor, and Kip was ordered to pay her a yearly allowance for the rest of her life. The couple never reconciled.

James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khair un-Nissa

James Kirkpatrick was an important diplomat from the East India Company. He traveled to India with plans to take over, but he ended up becoming very interested in the Indo-Persian culture. He gave up his English ways and started dressing like the people in India. He even became a Muslim and married a teenager named Khair un-Nissa, who was the granddaughter of a powerful person in Hyderabad. The local officials allowed the marriage as long as he promised to work in the best interests of the Hyderabadi government.

People in Calcutta were very upset about the interracial marriage, especially because Kirkpatrick was a high-ranking official. When the governor of India found out, he called Kirkpatrick to Calcutta, scolded him, and fired him. Kirkpatrick and his wife had two children, but he sent them to England for school and to be given Christian names. They never came back to India.

Sadly, Kirkpatrick got sick and died right after his children left. His wife died a few years later of natural causes.

Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray

Despite increasing acceptance of interracial marriage in the United States, Bill de Blasio, who was elected Mayor of New York in 2013, is the first white official to hold a major office with a black spouse. His wife, McCray, is expected to have a significant role in de Blasio’s administration.

While polls show that interracial marriages are more accepted in the United States, there is still some overt disapproval. For example, in 2013, a Cheerios ad featuring a biracial family received so many racist remarks on YouTube that comments had to be disabled.

Many people view the de Blasio marriage as a significant milestone and hope that it will help combat the racism that still exists in a country striving to uphold the value of equality.

References:

The Lovings:

    • “Loving v. Virginia,” Oyez, www.oyez.org/cases/1966/395.
    • “Mildred and Richard Loving,” Biography, www.biography.com/activist/mildred-loving.

Ruth Williams Khama and Sir Seretse Khama:

    • “Ruth Williams Khama,” The Guardian, www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/27/ruth-williams-khama.
    • “Seretse Khama,” Encyclopædia Britannica, www.britannica.com/biography/Seretse-Khama.

Arcadio Huang and Marie-Claude Regnier:

    • Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China. W.W. Norton & Company, 1990.
    • “Arcadio Huang,” Gallica, gallica.bnf.fr.

Gonzalo Guerrero and Zazil Ha:

    • Restall, Matthew. Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. Oxford University Press, 2003.
    • “Gonzalo Guerrero,” Mexico Desconocido, www.mexicodesconocido.com.mx/gonzalo-guerrero.html.

Louisa and Louis Gregory:

    • “Louis George Gregory,” Bahá’í Encyclopedia Project, www.bahai-encyclopedia-project.org.
    • “Louisa Gregory,” The Baha’i Faith, www.bahai.org.

Leonard Kip Rhinelander and Alice Jones:

    • “The Rhinelander Case,” Smithsonian Magazine, www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-trial-of-the-century-that-wasnt-35931735/.
    • “Kip Rhinelander,” Historical Society of the New York Courts, history.nycourts.gov/case-studies/kip-rhinelander/.

James Achilles Kirkpatrick and Khair un-Nissa:

    • Dalrymple, William. White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India. Penguin Books, 2004.
    • “James Achilles Kirkpatrick,” The Guardian, www.theguardian.com/books/2002/oct/12/featuresreviews.guardianreview19.

Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray:

    • “Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray,” The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/nyregion/de-blasio-captures-mayoralty-with-vow-to-restore-new-york.html.
    • “Interracial Marriage in the U.S.,” Pew Research Center, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/18/5-facts-about-interracial-marriage/.

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