Monday, June 17, 2024

Cruel and Unjust Laws Changed by Brave Americans


As I was looking through my copy of This Day in History, by Jim Daley, I ran across three interesting attempts to change the law of the land that helped shape America. One took place while we were still a British colony, one in the last decade of the 19th century and one in mid-20th Century. All took place in June.

Freedom of religion defined

On June 1st, 1660 Mary Dyer is hanged by the Puritan’s for converting to Quakerism and insisting on sharing her new faith in the Massachusetts’s Bay Colony. Puritians considered the Quaker belief’s heresy. The laws against them in this colony were horrid. Any Quaker caught evangelizing had their right ear cut off. They were beaten, and if you visited a Quaker in prison, you were arrested, too. Hanging was the final straw to get Quakers to leave their colony.

Mary along with two others were caught evangelizing. She stood on the platform with the two other accused victims, William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson. The men were hanged, and she was released, because her eldest son sent an appeal letter to the court.

 Even while safely in Rhode Island with her family, who from all accounts were not Quakers, she planned to return to Massachusetts Bay.

Mary felt she, too, should have been hanged as she had violated the same laws. Mary Dyer strongly felt called to share her faith with those in Boston, where she had lived before her conversion. Rather than stay in Rhode Island with her husband and family, she returned to Boston. She was determined to see those laws overturned.

This time she was hanged in Boston. Edward Wanton witnessed her execution and was so moved he became a Quaker and moved to Rhode Island, where the religion continued unfettered. Mary Dyer is one of four Quakers whose deaths turned the tide for Quakers in America. Her martyrdom was the catalysis to have the anti-Quaker laws removed.

The first act of Civil Disobedience to draw attention to the inequality of the separate but equal laws

On June 7th, 1892, Homer Plessy is arrested for refusing to give up his seat on a train. Plessy, a mixed-race citizen of New Orleans, supported early Civil Right activities that challenged the separate but equal law that required segregation on passenger trains in Louisana. He deliberately boarded a whites only train and was arrested. He lost his court case in Louisana, but appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in 8 to 1 ruling on Plessy vs Ferguson upheld the “separate but equal”  law of the land. This has been considered the worst decision ever made by the supreme court. Eventually, segregation was overturned in 1954 in the Supreme Court case Brown vs the Board of Education. The statement of the lone support of Homer Plessy, Justice John Marshall Harlan, stated “forced segregation of the races stamped blacks with a badge of inferiority.” That was the very basis for desegregation in the Browns vs the Board of Education case.

Couple helps overturn anti-interracial marriage laws

On June 12th, 1967, Mildred and Richard Loving were arrested for being married. Mildred was African American and Native American, and Richard was white. Interracial marriages were illegal in Virginia. They were each sentenced to a year in prison just for being married. But if they left the state, they could avoid imprisonment. If they returned within twenty-five years, the sentence would stand. The couple moved to Washington D.C., but city life did not agree with them. Richard had trouble finding a job to support his family. After consulting with Attorney General Robert. F. Kennedy. Mildred contacted the ACLU ( American Civil Liberties Union). Their lawyer eventually appealed to the United States Supreme Court and the Loving vs Virginia became the landmark case that allowed interracial marriage nationally. The couple returned to their small town in Virginia where Richard built them a house. June 12th became an unofficial holiday for interracial couples called Loving Day.

Each of these brave people took on the cause to change laws that were cruel and did not uphold the ideals of America. Mary Dyer fought against religious prejudice. Homer Plessy took up the banner against segregation. And the Loving struck a blow for freedom to marry whomever you wished regardless of their skin color.

Have you heard of any of these three court actions?

Cindy Ervin Huff is an Award-winning author of Historical and Contemporary Romance. She loves infusing hope into her stories of broken people. She addicted to reading and chocolate. Her idea of a vacation is visiting historical sites and an ideal date with her hubby of almost fifty years would be live theater. Visit her website Or on Social media:





1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting today. I have not heard of these court cases.