Criminal Intimacy 1883

In 1881, Alabama convicted Tony Pace and Mary Jane Cox for interracial cohabitation. They were each sentenced to two years in jail. The couple appealed their case, claiming that the Alabama law violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by enacting greater penalties on interracial couples than on same race couples.

Pace v. Alabama was the first miscegenation case to reach the highest court. The Supreme Court unanimously upheld Alabama’s law. The harsher penalties for interracial couples were deemed constitutional because the “punishment of each offending person, whether white or black, is the same.” This precedent, which upheld state laws prohibiting interracial marriage, remained in effect for 80 years—longer than segregation in education.