Anti-Miscegenation Laws Overturned in the US in 1967

Many people with early Native heritage “lose” their ancestor in colonial Virginia, NC or one of the states east of the Blue Ridge.  Maybe said another way, we have legends that they exist, but we can’t figure out who they were or sometimes, even which family exactly.  So we don’t exactly lose them, we just can’t find them.  Why is this so tough?

One of the issues facing our ancestors, especially those of who were admixed with African or Native and white blood was the effects of anti-miscegenation laws.  Enacted quite early in both Virginia and North Carolina, they effectively criminalized marriage between any white person and any person of color.  While the severity of the consequences varied, as did the timing of the earliest laws and the definition of who was “of color”, nearly all states enacted some sort of law prohibiting such marriages and sexual interactions outside of marriage.  Women who bore mixed race children out of wedlock (because you couldn’t within wedlock) were publicly whipped.  If one could claim any admixture other than African or Indian, it was far better socially and legally than the “colored” races.  That’s one reason why we probably see so many people claiming to be Portuguese. It explained why one was “dark,” but Portuguese were legally “white,” European, and those of Portuguese ancestry did not suffer under the cruel fist of discriminatory laws.

Someone e-mailed me recently with a seemingly simple question.  When could a Native American or other person with any admixture marry a white person in North Carolina or Virginia?  I knew that they could not in the 1600s, the 1700s or the 1800s, but I didn’t really know when they could.  I suspected in some states that it was probably connected to the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, but I surely didn’t know the answer.

And the answer is….an amazing 1967.  I was surprised at this late date, but it certainly explains why we, as children, were utterly forbidden to discuss our Native ancestry, at all, ever.  My Mom received a call from my school teacher when I was in first or second grade because I had proudly said something about my Indian heritage.   From my mother’s perspective it would have been far better had my father never told me about that.  She certainly never told me about hers until AFTER her DNA tests came back telling the story.

These discriminatory laws were ruled unconstitutional in 1967 by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Loving vs the State of Virginia.

The map below shows the states, in red, whose laws prohibiting intermarriage between nonwhites and whites were overturned by the 1967 ruling.

In the grey states, no laws were ever passed.  In the green, the offending laws were repealed before 1887.  The yellow states’ miscegenation laws were repealed between 1948 and 1967.

You can read more about the specifics at:                     and

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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9 Responses to Anti-Miscegenation Laws Overturned in the US in 1967

  1. This is an eye-opener! WOW!

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  6. WV has a slightly distinct history not discussed or demonstrated in your article. WV allowed anyone to define themselves as white or colored and you could change the designation at will. This allowed anyone to marry whom they pleased. Thus, on paper, WV is the whitest state in the union. Additionally, WV’s eugenics laws–forced sterilization of mixed race or otherwise undesirable people–which closely paralleled Virginia’s had one extra requirement: a jury of twelve had to agree. They rarely did, but the law on paper looked the same. Because of these laws, WV had a population of indigenous Appalachians who identify on paper as “White”.

    • LdeG says:

      Unlike many states where the law was a felony, invalidated the marriage, and made any children illegitimate, WV had only a misdemeanor with up to a $100 fine or up to a year in jail. I have no data on how much this was enforced; the non-white population of WV was low, because there were few Native settlements during the period of European settlement, and comparatively little slavery. There were many settlers taken captive from the area that became WV, mostly by the Ohio Shawnee, from the 1750s through the 1790s who had children, but almost all of the children remained with the Shawnee. I can’t find any evidence that forced sterilization applied to anyone other than inmates of the state hospitals who had mental disabilities, and apparently only 98 were ever performed.

  7. Jeannette Peterson says:

    I have been told my whole life that we have indian in us and that my grandmother was full blooded indian. I have done several test including the mtDNA and I am not seeing where we have indian in us.. most of the older generation which would be my grandmothers brothers and sisters are gone… they say cherokee and i did find a few names that are the same with some of the names in our tree how ever the states do not match up.. is there a way to see if they may of traveled from indian territory to Ohio, PA areas????

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