Jake and Mary Jacobs celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last year, but they had to overcome many challenges to get to this milestone.
When Mary, a white woman, met Jake, a black man, it was the 1940s in Britain, and although living in the same town, Jake was one of the few black males.
It would have been easy for Mary to walk away, but she had fallen in love and was willing to go to any length to keep her love, even after her father advised her to.
“When I informed my father I was marrying Jake, he warned me, ‘If you marry that man, you’ll never set foot in this house again.”
Jake and Mary had met during the war when Jake came home from Vietnam, and they had both attended the same technical college, where Mary was taking typing and shorthand classes while he was training with the Air Force.
Mary, who was living in Lancashire at the time, and Jake struck up a conversation, and Jake impressed Mary with his Shakespeare knowledge.
Mary and her friend were invited out for a picnic by Jake and his friend, and they were seen by a lady cycling by who was outraged to see two English girls conversing with black males, so she reported Mary to her father. Her father was shocked, and Mary was forbidden from ever seeing him again.
When Jake returned to Trinidad, they corresponded to one other, and he came to the United Kingdom a few years later to find better pad employment.
When Jake asked Mary to marry him, she was surprised; she was 19 years old at the time and accepted; however, when she told her family, they kicked her out.
“I barely had one little suitcase to my name when I departed.” In 1948, no family came to our registry office to marry.”
While her father was ‘horrified’ that she may consider marrying a black guy, Mary was unaware that the rest of society felt the same way.
“Living in Birmingham for the first years of our marriage was awful – I cringed every day and seldom ate.” We couldn’t find a place to live since no one would rent to a black man, and we didn’t have any money.”
Mary told the Daly Mal that even walking down the street together was difficult since people would stare at them.
Mary became pregnant, and the couple rejoiced at the prospect of becoming parents soon, but she gave birth to a stillborn child at the age of eight months.
“It wasn’t connected to the stress I was under,” she lamented, “but it crushed my heart, and we never had any more children,” she said.
With Mary working as a teacher and relocating to an assistant principal of a British school and Jake securing a position with the Post Office, the couple’s lives would become easier. They established new friends, but Mary was disappointed that she felt compelled to inform people that her husband was black before introducing them to him.
“My father died when I was 30, and despite the fact that we were reunited at that time, he never approved of Jake,” she lamented.
Mary, 84, and Jake, 89, live in the town of Solihull, just south of Birmingham, and just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Jake says he has no regrets, but that today’s young black kids have no idea what it was like for him in the 1940s.
‘Every day, I’m subjected to ab.u.se’
“When I first arrived in the United Kingdom, I was treated to ab.u.se on a daily basis. ‘I wanted to check if the dirt would come off,’ a guy said as he rubbed his hands over my neck on a bus.