Although it wasn’t easy to get there, Jake and Mary Jacobs celebrated their 70th year of a joyful marriage last year.
In 1940s Britain, Mary, a White lady, and Jake, a Black man, lived in the same city, despite Jake being one of the few Black men living there.
Mary could have easily left, but she had fallen in love and would stop at nothing to stay with her partner in spite of her father’s orders to the contrary.
“You will never set foot in this house again if you marry that man,” my father said when I told him I was getting married to Jake.
The two had met at the same technical college where he was training for the Air Force and Mary was taking typing and shorthand lessons, after Jake had come from Trinidad during the war.
Mary, a Lancashire resident at the time, was astonished by Jake’s understanding of Shakespeare when they first spoke.
He and his partner invited Mary and her friend out for a picnic, but as they were having their conversation, a woman riding by noticed them and reported Mary to her father, expressing her shock at seeing two English girls talking to black guys. After he was surprised, Mary was not permitted to see her father again.
When Mary became pregnant, the couple relished the prospect of becoming parents, but eight months into the pregnancy, Mary gave birth to a stillborn child.
“We never had any more children, and it broke my heart, but it wasn’t related to the stress I was under,” she remarked.
With Mary becoming an assistant principal of a British school and Jake landing a position at the Post Office, their lives did indeed become easier. They became friends, but Mary claimed that before introducing her husband to others, she had to clarify that he was black.
“Even though we had made up by the time of his death when I was thirty, he never did approve of Jake,” she remarked.
Currently, 89-year-old Jake and 84-year-old Mary live in the town of Solihull, which is south of Birmingham. Their 70th wedding anniversary was recently celebrated.
Jake says he has no regrets, but he also says that today’s black youth don’t know what it was like for him to grow up in 1940s Britain.
“Continually subjected to mistreatment”I suffered abuse every day when I came to the UK. A man once touched my neck with his hands when I was on the bus and remarked, “I wanted to see if the dirt would come off.”
“And you couldn’t work in an office back then because it wasn’t considered safe for a black man to be in an office with all the white girls.”
The couple is still incredibly in love and has no regrets about getting married, even in the face of all the difficulties, prejudice, and abuse. For over seven decades, they have enjoyed a happy marriage.
Because of their love for one another, these two are truly inspirational, and I hope they have a lifetime of happiness together.