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Interracial Marriage Then and Now

Together for decades, four couples discuss struggles and offer advice

  • Steven and Denise Beumer, Casselberry, Fla.

    Steven and Denise were known as a "mixed-up couple" in Detroit in the '70s and '80s. They couldn't get a mortgage approved in a white neighborhood until Steve threatened legal action. A neighbor once asked Denise to fill in for her housekeeper, thinking she was the hired help, not a homeowner. "You can be nice to them, son," Steven's mother told him. "But you don't marry them." — Photo by Amy Mikler

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In the last 30 years, the number of interracial marriages in the U.S. has more than doubled. In 1980, 7 percent of new marriages brought together people from different racial or ethnic backgrounds, reports the Pew Research Center. Today, 15 percent of newlyweds are crossing the racial divide.

See also: Faces of the Freedom Rides: Ten who went, then and now.

Societal attitudes about these unions have also shifted. Today, nearly
two-thirds of Americans say they're fine with people marrying someone of a different race. In 1986, only 28 percent of people agreed with that

Here are the stories of four couples, married more than 30 years, who
crossed racial, societal and even legal barriers to be the pioneers that
paved the way for today's new way of thinking about interracial marriages.

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