Jake and Mary Jacobs celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last year, but they had to overcome many challenges to reach this milestone.
When Mary, a white woman, met Jake, a black man, it was the 1940s in Britain, and although he lived in the same town, Jake was one of the few black men.
It would have been easy for Mary to walk away from her, but he had fallen in love with her and was willing to go to any lengths to keep her love, even after her father had advised her to do so.
“When I informed my father that I was marrying Jake, he warned me: ‘If you marry that man, you will never set foot in this house again.
Jake and Mary met during the war when Jake came home from Vietnam, and they had both attended the same technical school, where Mary took typing and shorthand classes while he trained with the Air Force.
Mary, who was living in Lancashire at the time, and Jake struck up a conversation, and Jake impressed Mary with her knowledge of Shakespeare.
Jake and her friend invited Mary and her friend to a picnic, and a woman cycled past and was upset to see two English girls chatting with black men, so she reported Mary to her father. . . Her father was shocked and Mary was forbidden to see him again.
When Jake returned to Trinidad they wrote to each other and he came to the UK a few years later to find a better job.
When Jake asked Mary to marry him, she was shocked; she was then 19 years old and she accepted; however, when she told her family, they kicked her out.
“I barely had a small suitcase to my name when I left.” In 1948, no family came to our registry office to get married.”
While her father was “horrified” that she would consider marrying a black man, Mary was unaware that the rest of society felt the same way.
“Living in Birmingham for the first few years of our marriage was awful – I shrank every day and rarely ate.” We couldn’t find a place to live because no one would rent to a black man and we had no money.”
Mary told the Daly Mal that even walking down the street together was difficult because people were looking at them.
Mary became pregnant and the couple rejoiced at the prospect of soon becoming parents, but she gave birth to a stillborn boy at the age of eight months.
“It wasn’t related 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 as a deputy headmistress at a British school and Jake securing a position at the post office, life for the couple would be easier. They made new friends, but Mary was disappointed that she felt compelled to inform people that her husband was black before introducing him.
“My father died when I was 30 years old and, although we met at the time, he never approved of Jake,” she lamented.
Mary, 84, and Jake, 89, live in the town of Solihull, just south of Birmingham, and have just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Jake says he has no regrets, but young black men today have no idea what it was like for him in the 1940s.
“Every day, I am subjected to abuse”
“When I first came to the UK, I was treated badly every day. “I wanted to check if the dirt would come off,” one guy said as he rubbed his hands on my neck on a bus.