On this day in 1687, seventeen-year-old Sarah Harrison of Surry County stood at the altar opposite the prickly Scottish minister James Blair and refused that portion of the ceremony requiring her to obey him. As Madonna recently said of Oprah, “She has balls.” (But you already knew that.)
Also on this day, 271 years later, Richard Perry Loving and Mildred Delores Jeter, both of Caroline County, were married in Washington, D.C. Mildred, or “Stringbean” as everyone called her, was a light-skinned black, not quite nineteen years old. Six years her senior, Richard was a white bricklayer who co-owned a drag-racing car with two black friends of his. He had been courting Stringbean since she was eleven.
Such a union was illegal in Virginia, of course, and had been, more or less, since April 1691. So they drove up to D.C., did the deed quietly, and were arrested for their trouble five weeks later. “A pair of star-cross’d lovers,” you might say, and “alike in dignity,” even if the Commonwealth refused to acknowledge it.
A version of this post was originally published on June 2, 2011.
IMAGE: The Lovings on June 13, 1967, upon hearing the news that the United States Supreme Court—nine years and eleven days after the fact—finally validated their wedding. (Francis Miller, Getty)