At a time when interracial courtship was forbidden in Britain, a British woman fell in love with a Black man. She was given a difficult choice between following her heart or losing her family. Here's her story.
During the 1940s, British lady Mary was at a technical college taking typing and shorthand lessons when she met Trinidad-born soldier Jake who was part of the American forces sent to the UK for training by the Air Force.
Jake and his military friends called Mary and her friend to talk, and the girls were pleasantly surprised to find they could speak English. They started chatting, and Jake even quoted Shakespeare for Mary, which she loved.
A recent picture of Mary and Jake [left] An old picture of Mary and Jake [right] | Photo: twitter.com/BBCRadio2 twitter.com/HypeSir7
A couple of weeks later, they went out for a picnic, and trouble started when a lady who spotted Mary at the picnic reported to her father, and she was henceforth restricted from seeing him again.
Jake returned to Trinidad, but the pair continued exchanging letters, and after a few years, he returned to get better-paid work in the UK.
At just 19, Mary accepted to marry Jake but was subsequently thrown out of the house by her father, who was appalled by her decision to marry a Black man. With just a tiny suitcase to her name, Mary married Jake in 1948, and none of her family was present at the occasion.
DIFFICULT FIRST YEAR OF MARRIAGE
Mary was shocked to learn that society held as much disdain for interracial couples as people would point at them whenever they walked the streets together.
The couple, who were living in Birmingham, found it difficult to rent apartments because no one wanted to house a Black man. They did not have friends, and they had no money due to Jake being unable to find a job. As he recollected:
"Back then, you couldn't work in an office — because a black man in an office with all the white girls wasn't thought to be safe."
Their problems were compounded when Mary gave birth to a stillborn child eight months into her pregnancy. It broke her heart, and the couple decided not to have any other children.
Thankfully, things got better for the enduring couple. Mary got teaching jobs and ended up as a deputy teacher while Jake first worked in a factory before ending up at a post office.
They also started making new friends but would give such people prior warning about their interracial marriage before inviting them into their home. Mary's father died when she was 30; although they reconciled before his death, he never approved of her decision to marry Jake.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Mary and Jake, who have been married for seven decades and counting, explained that they were lucky to have met and married one another.
Jake revealed it still pains him that they were never truly approved by society. He spoke of his struggles with racism, explaining a man once rubbed hands on his neck and said:
"'I wanted to see if the dirt would come off.'"
After several decades of marriage, the couple still actively work on their relationship. For example, Jake cooks every day except when they are expecting kosher visitors. Mary has a slight case of early Alzheimer's, and even though there is no cure, the doctors are trying their best.
Unlike Jake and Mary, in 1967, high school lovers Howard Foster and Myra Clark had to go their separate ways because of the tension surrounding interracial relationships in the United States.
Foster couldn't let Clark go through the struggles that came with their kind of relationship, so he decided to break up with his white girlfriend. However, 45 years later, they reunited and finally got married. Read the full story here.
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