This Day in History: 1946-04-18

Thirty-two-year-old Navy veteran Davis Knight marries Junie Lee Spradley, a white woman. Two years later, the State of Mississippi indicted Knight for violating a state law that prohibited “marriage or cohabitation between white persons and those with one-eighth or more Negro or Mongolian blood.” The State claimed that Mr. Knight’s deceased great-grandmother was Black, making Mr. Knight at least one-eighth Black. On December 18, 1948, Mr. Knight was convicted of being Black and sentenced to five years in prison for marrying outside of his race. On November 14, 1949, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the conviction, holding that the State had failed to prove that Mr Knight’s great-grandmother was fully Black, so had failed to prove that Mr. Knight was at least one-eighth Black. The decision did not strike down the state’s miscegenation law, or prevent future prosecution of Mr. Knight or others; the state’s ban on interracial marriage would stand for nearly two more decades, until the United States Supreme Court’s 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia struck down remaining anti-miscegenation laws in Mississippi and seventeen other states. Learn more.