Sunday, June 12th is Loving Day, a celebration commemorating the landmark Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia (1967) that legalized interracial marriage in the United States.
BHS will be celebrating mixed-heritage families all year with Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations (CBBG) a public programming series and oral history project about mixed-heritage families, race, ethnicity, culture, and identity, infused with historical perspective.
Forty-four years ago, interracially married couples faced prosecution and jail time, or violence, if they happened to cross into one of 16 states that prohibited and punished marriages on the basis of racial classifications. Fifty-nine years ago, anti-miscegenation laws were on the books in 30 states. Eighty-one years ago, in 1930, the Hays Code forbade portrayals of interracial romance, curtailing the careers of actors of color like Anna May Wong who could no longer play the romantic leads. In Germany in 1935, The Nuremberg Laws were introduced that prohibited marriage between Jewish Germans and other Germans. The only other nation to legislate against intermarriage was Apartheid South Africa in 1949. While interfaith marriages were not legally proscribed in the U.S., interfaith and interclass marriages often met with opposition from family and community.
And yet, in less than two generations since the last anti-miscegenation laws were removed, a study released last year by the Pew Research Center reports that a record one out of seven new marriages in the United States were between spouses of a different race or ethnicity from one another.
From Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (Stanley Kramer, 1967) to Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever (1991), stories about mixed-heritage romance abound in theater, film, literature, cultural criticism, news media, political cartoons, pop culture, humor, and folklore. These stories powerfully address issues about gender, sexuality, class, power, community, nationality, and identity. Despite popular culture’s fascination with this topic, scholars agree that all too rarely do we hear the real stories of mixed-heritage families’ personal experiences, which can add perspective and complexity to historical moments and movements.
Which is why BHS looks forward to collecting life history interviews with mixed-heritage families in Brooklyn and, as CBBG scholarly advisor Suleiman Osman said, “exploring the historically fluid borders, cultural hybridity, and overlapping identities of Brooklyn’s communities.”
Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations is currently in the planning phase (April 2011 – March 2012) and will result in a multi-faceted interpretive website expected to be completed in 2015. This fall BHS presents a series of CBBG public programs including a 20th Anniversary screening and discussion of Jungle Fever at BAM (November 15th) and much more, so stay tuned!
And thanks to the Jet Magazine archives via Google Books for the images from 1953!