Jake and Mary Jacobs celebrated 70 years of a beautiful marriage this year, but they had to overcome many obstacles to get there.
Jake was one of the few black men in the city where Mary, a White woman, and Jake, a Black man, lived in 1940s Britain.
It would have been easy for Mary to leave, but she had fallen in love and would go to any length to remain with her beloved, despite her father’s orders.
“When I told my father I intended to marry Jake, he replied, ‘You will never set foot in this house again if you marry that man.’”
When Jake immigrated from Trinidad during the war, they met at the same technical institution where Mary was taking typing and shorthand lessons, and he was through Air Force training.
Jake struck up a conversation with Mary, who lived in Lancashire then, and she was impressed by his knowledge of Shakespeare.
He and his companion invited Mary and her friend to join them for a picnic, but a woman riding by noticed them and reported Mary to her father because she was shocked to see two English ladies speaking with black boys. Mary was not permitted to return to see her father.
When Jake returned to Trinidad, they wrote to each other, and he moved to the United Kingdom a few years later to find better-paying employment.
Jake proposed to Mary when she was 19 years old; she accepted, but when she told her family, they kicked her out.
“I only had one small piece of luggage when I departed.”
While her father was ‘horrified’ that she was considering marrying a black man, Mary didn’t realize the rest of society felt the same way.
“The first years of our marriage were misery in Birmingham – I cried daily and barely ate. Nobody spoke to us, we couldn’t find a place to live since no one would rent to a black man, and we didn’t have any money.”
Walking down the street with Mary was tough because people would point at them.
Mary became pregnant, and the couple relished the prospect of becoming parents, but at eight months, she gave birth to a stillborn child.
“It wasn’t related to the stress I was under,” she explained, “but it crushed my heart, and we never had any more children.”
With Mary working as a teacher and advancing to assistant principal of a British school and Jake finding a position with the Post Office, their lives did improve.
They established new friends, but Mary stated 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 while we had reconciled by then, he never approved of Jake,” she explained.
Jake, 89, and Mary, 84, are currently residents of Solihull, a town south of Birmingham. They recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Jake says he has no regrets, but he also claims that today’s black youth have no idea what life was like for him in 1940s Britain.
“Every day, I am subjected to abuse.”
“Every day after I landed in the United Kingdom, I was treated to abuse. On a bus once, a man wiped his hands over my neck and remarked, ‘I wanted to check if the dirt would come off.’”
“And you couldn’t work in an office back then because a black man in an office with all the white girls wasn’t considered safe.”
Despite the hardships, bias, and abuse, the couple remains genuinely in love and has no regrets about their marriage. They’ve been married for over 70 years and are still going strong.
These two are great inspirations, and I wish them a lifetime of happiness because of their love for one another.