Jake and Mary Jacobs, who celebrated 71 years of marriage last year, are an inspiration because they have persevered through so much adversity.
Mary, a White woman, met Jake, a Black man, in the 1940s in Britain, where he was one of very few black males despite the fact that they both lived in a city.
Mary’s father told her to leave, but she refused to listen because she was in love and would do anything to keep him by her side.
“When I told my father I was going to marry Jake he said, ‘If you marry that man you will never set foot in this house again.’”
Mary was taking typing and shorthand classes at the same technical college where Jake was undergoing Air Force training when the two met during the war.
Mary, a Lancastrian at the time, and Jake struck up a conversation, during which Jake demonstrated his extensive Shakespearean knowledge to Mary’s admiration.
Mary and her friend were asked to a picnic with him and his friend, but an onlooker, appalled to see two English girls speaking with black males, reported the incident to Mary’s father.
In amazement, her father forbade Mary any further contact with him.
What was it like to be in a mixed race relationship in the 1940s and 50s? We meet Jake and Mary Jacobs who got married in 1948 pic.twitter.com/E56ZP6QLbs— BBC Radio 2 (@BBCRadio2) October 13, 2016
Jake kept in touch with her via letters after moving back to Trinidad, and a few years later he moved back to the United Kingdom in search of higher pay.
Jake asked Mary, then 19, if she would marry him out of the blue; she said yes, but her family disowned her after she told them.
“I left with only one small suitcase to my name. No family came to our registry office wedding in 1948.”
Mary claimed she was unaware of the widespread revulsion to interracial marriage until her father expressed his ‘horrification’ at the prospect.
“The first years of our marriage living in Birmingham were hell — I cried every day, and barely ate. No one would speak to us, we couldn’t find anywhere to live because no one would rent to a black man, and we had no money.”
Mary said to the Daily Mail that it was uncomfortable even to stroll down the street together because strangers kept staring.
Mary became pregnant, and the couple celebrated the delight of anticipating becoming parents. However, at the eighth month mark, Mary gave birth to a stillborn child.
“It wasn’t related to the stress I was under but it broke my heart, and we never had any more children,” she said.
After Mary began working as a teacher and eventually became the assistant principal of a British school, and after Jake found employment with the Post Office, their lives did become somewhat less difficult.
They met several new individuals, but Mary claimed she often felt the need to preface her husband’s introduction to them with an explanation of why he was introduced as “my husband” and not “my buddy” because of his race.
“My father died when I was 30 and although we were reconciled by then, he never did approve of Jake,” she said.
Mary, now 84, and Jake, now 89, have been married for 70 years and live in Solihull, a town south of Birmingham.
Jake says he doesn’t look back with regret, but warns today’s black youth that they have no idea what it was like for him in 1940s Britain.
‘Subjected to abuse every day’
“When I arrived in the U.K. I was subjected to abuse every day. Once I was on a bus and a man rubbed his hands on my neck and said: ‘I wanted to see if the dirt would come off.
“And 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.”
They’ve been married for almost 70 years, and they’re still madly in love with each other and have absolutely no regrets about being married.
It’s clear that nothing can stand between the love these two share; they’re an inspiration, and I hope they have many more years of happiness together.
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