In Loving v. Virginia (1967), the Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s historic ban on interracial marriage. Chief Justice Earl Warren reproached the state for promoting “white supremacy.” With two words, Warren cut through paternalistic, religious, and even scientific justifications carefully woven by white Virginians over three centuries. This paper traces the evolution of the Commonwealth’s miscegenation law from the colonial era through the early twentieth century, and focuses on the 1924 Act to Preserve Racial Integrity.
The 1924 legislation arose at a moment of profound social change in Virginia and the nation as a whole. As new immigrant groups flocked into the United States, blacks from the Deep South migrated to Virginia’s industrial cities, and Virginians of all races confronted each other in expanding urban centers. This confrontation between white Virginians and the racial and ethnic “other” occurred as the Eugenics Movement and Social Darwinism weighed heavily on the collective conscience. White Virginians feared that geographic proximity to nonwhites would lead to the “mongrelization” of their proud race.
Capitalizing upon this paranoia, John Powell founded the Anglo-Saxon Clubs of America in 1922. The organization mobilized white men in a legislative battle for racial integrity. Powell and his clubs strove to sustain white southern civilization and preserve the chastity of white women by outlawing the mixture of pure white blood with a single drop of nonwhite blood. The result of the clubs’ successful lobbying, the 1924 Act, imposed the narrowest race laws in the United States and the strictest regulation of interracial marriage in Virginia’s history.||en-US