Arkansas law barred interracial relationships from the territorial period up to the twentieth century, when the U.S. Supreme Court overruled such laws. The Arkansas General Assembly banned miscegenation in 1837, but the law was laxly enforced because of the small number of free blacks in the state. That law was overturned during Reconstruction, and many interracial couples married during the period.
However, when “redeemer” Democrats took power, the law was renewed and as Populists emerged in the 1890s it was more strictly enforced, with one couple’s twenty-year marriage ruled invalid in 1894. The legislature passed a law banning racial co-habitation in 1911, and in 1947 an even more drastic law against interracial relationships was passed, threatening up to three years in prison. But after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected state bans on interracial marriage in 1968’s Loving vs. Virginia ruling, Arkansas quickly complied.
To learn more, visit Encyclopedia of Arkansas.net