Legal marriages between black and white people, which were rare before the Civil War, rose after emancipation, peaked about 1900, and declined until 1940. Beginning sometime after World War II, black-white marriages rose once again, but so slowly that by 2002, they accounted for only 0.7 percent of all marriages.
The taboo against black-white marriage built up over three centuries, first by the distinction between slave and free and later by segregation in the Jim Crow era. Laws against such intermarriage, which date to a 1691 Virginia statute, were declared illegal by the Supreme Court only in 1967. The historic legacy of stigma, together with scant opportunity to meet on an equal footing in offices, schools and neighborhoods, has been the main obstacle to black-white unions. Another has been the repudiation of intermarriage by black people who view it as an expression of racial disloyalty.
This article was originally published with the title The Progress of Love.