Virginia’s Caroline County, ‘Symbolic of Main Street USA’

Virginia’s Caroline County, ‘Symbolic of Main Street USA’

The Washington Post

Carol Morello

Bowling Green, Va. — Only a few easily overlooked markers note the importance of Mildred and Richard Loving in Caroline County, where five decades ago the sheriff rousted the white man and his black bride from their bed and carted them off to jail.

A small brass plaque in the county courthouse credits their landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court case, Loving v. Virginia, with overturning laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Their names are engraved on a granite obelisk, at the end of a list of prominent local African Americans. The county Web site devotes a page to their case.

Yet their legacy is everywhere in the small Tidewater towns and family farms that make up Caroline County, where a soaring number of people identify themselves as multiracial.

In the 2010 Census, 3 percent of Caroline County’s 28,500 residents were counted as of two or more races. Most are younger than 20. The phenomenon is both old and new.

Historical records show multiracial children in the county going back to slave-holding Colonial times. Today, their increasing ranks are part of a national trend that is changing the way people think and talk about race.

…Even in 1958, Caroline County was an unlikely place for an interracial couple to be arrested. An area known as Central Point had so many multiracial residents of white, black and Native American heritage that during segregation, their children all attended the county’s all-black high school. A major feature of Central Point is Passing Road — a name attributed in local lore to the many residents who could “pass” as white. Elderly residents of Central Point say they recall other interracial couples who had married out of state and lived quietly in the area….

…It’s not known how Mildred Loving, with her black and Native American heritage, identified herself in the 2000 Census. She died in 2008, 33 years after her husband died in a car crash. But in the 2010 Census, their daughter decided to check only one box when faced, like so many millions of other Americans, with boiling down a complex ancestry on a bureaucratic form.

“Native American,” said Peggy Loving Fortune, who is 52. “Just Native American.”…

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