This year, Jake and Mary Jacobs celebrated 70 years of a beautiful marriage, but they had to overcome many obstacles to get there.
Jake was one of the few black males in the city where Mary, a white lady, and Jake, a black man, both resided in 1940s Britain.
It would have been easy for Mary to go, but she had fallen in love and would go to any length to remain with her lover, despite her father’s demands.
“When I informed my father I was intending 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 going through Air Force training.
Jake struck up a discussion with Mary, who lived in Lancashire at the time, and she was impressed by his knowledge of Shakespeare.
He and his buddy asked 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 after he was frightened.
After 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 agreed, but when she told her family, they kicked her out.
“I just had one little suitcase with me when I departed.” In 1948, no relatives attended our registrar’s office wedding.”
While her father was ‘horrified’ that she was considering marrying a black guy, Mary didn’t understand the rest of society felt the same way.
“The early years of our marriage were misery in Birmingham. I sobbed every day and rarely 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 8 months, she gave birth to a stillborn child.
“It wasn’t connected to the stress I was under,” she explained, “but it crushed my heart, and we never had any more children.”
Mary worked as a teacher and moved up to become the assistant principal of a British school. Jake got a job at the Post Office, so their lives did get better. They established new acquaintances, 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, who is 89, and Mary, who is 84, live in Solihull, which is a town south of Birmingham. They just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Jake maintains he has no regrets, but he also argues that today’s black youngsters 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 like trash. On a bus once, a guy 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 females wasn’t considered safe.”
Even though they have had to deal with problems, prejudice, and violence, the couple is still very much in love and has no regrets about getting married. They’ve been married for almost 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.