Jake and Mary Jacobs, who celebrated 70 years of marriage last year, are an inspiration because they have persevered through so much adversity.
Despite the fact that Mary (white) and Jake (black) were living in a major metropolis in 1940s Britain, Jake was one of very few black males they encountered.
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.
In other words, “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 while Jake was in Air Force training when they met during the war. Jake had come over from Trinidad to join the fight.
Mary, a Lancastrian at the time, and Jake struck up a conversation, and Jake’s mastery of Shakespeare wowed Mary.
Mary and her friend were asked to a picnic with him and his friend, but a passing cyclist’s horrified witnessing of two English girls speaking with black males was reported to Mary’s father. Because of how astonished he was, Mary’s father forbade her to visit him again.
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.
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
When Jake unexpectedly proposed to Mary, she readily accepted, but after telling her family, they disowned her.
I was only able to take one little luggage with me. In 1948, we tied the knot at a government registry office, but none of our relatives could make it.
Mary said she didn’t understand that the whole public shared her father’s “horror” at the idea of her marrying a black man.
I cried every day and hardly ate during the first years of our marriage in Birmingham. We had no friends, no money, and nowhere to live because no landlord would rent to a black man.
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Mary reported to the Daily Mail that they had trouble even going for a stroll down the street without drawing attention.
Mary became pregnant, and she and her husband were overjoyed at the prospect of becoming parents. However, she gave birth to a stillborn child when she was eight months along.
She explained that it “broke her heart,” adding, “It wasn’t related to the stress I was under, but we never had any more children.”
Mary had success as a teacher, eventually becoming the assistant principal of a British school, and Jake found steady employment with the Postal Service, so life did improve for them. Mary stated she felt she had to preface introductions to her husband with an explanation 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 insists he doesn’t look back with remorse, but warns today’s black youth that they have no idea what it was like for him in 1940s Britain.
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Abused on a daily basis”When I first came in the United Kingdom, I was met with constant verbal harassment. An odd man on the bus once rubbed his hands over my neck to see if he could get the dirt off.
“And you couldn’t work in an office back then, because it wasn’t thought to be safe for a black man to work in an office with all the white girls.”
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.
These two are an inspiration, and I hope they have a long and happy life together because of the love they have for each other.