Jake and Mary Jacobs marked their 70th anniversary of a happy marriage last year, but their journey wasn’t simple.
Mary, who is White, and Jake, who is Black, lived in the same city in 1940s Britain. At that time, there weren’t many Black men there.
Even though Mary’s father told her to leave, Mary chose love over easy choices.
“When I told my father I was going to marry Jake, he said, ‘If you marry that man, you will never set foot in this house again.’”
Mary and Jake first met at a technical college where Mary was learning typing and shorthand, and Jake was undergoing Air Force training. They met during the war when Jake moved from Trinidad to Britain.
Jake impressed Mary with his understanding of Shakespeare, and they got to know each other. One day, they invited Mary and her friend to join them for a picnic. Unfortunately, someone passing by saw them and reported Mary to her father. The woman was shocked to see two English girls talking with black guys. After this incident, Mary wasn’t allowed to visit her father again.
After Jake returned to Trinidad, they kept in touch through letters. A few years later, he came back to the U.K. to find a better-paying job.
Jake surprised Mary by proposing, and she, at 19, said yes. However, when she told her family, they kicked her out.
“I left with only one small suitcase. No family came to our registry office wedding in 1948.”
Mary’s father was upset about her marrying a black man, and Mary didn’t realize that society felt the same way.
The early years of their marriage in Birmingham were tough. Mary cried every day, hardly ate, and they faced many challenges. Nobody would talk to them, they couldn’t find a place to live because nobody would rent to a black man, and they had little money.
Even walking down the street together was hard because people would point at them, Mary explained.
Mary and Jake were excited to become parents, but at eight months, Mary gave birth to a stillborn child. She mentioned it wasn’t due to the stress she was under, but it deeply saddened them, and they didn’t have any more children.
As time passed, their lives improved. Mary became a teacher and eventually an assistant principal, while Jake found a job with the Post Office. They made new friends, but Mary felt the need to explain to people that her husband was black before introducing them.
“My father passed away when I was 30, and even though we reconciled by then, he never approved of Jake,” she shared.
Currently, Jake, 89, and Mary, 84, live in Solihull, a town south of Birmingham. They recently celebrated 70 years of marriage.
Jake said he has no regrets, but he also mentioned that today’s black youth may not fully understand the challenges he faced in 1940s Britain.
“When I arrived in the U.K., I faced abuse every day. Once, on a bus, a man rubbed his hands on my neck and said, ‘I wanted to see if the dirt would come off.’ Back then, working in an office as a black man with white girls wasn’t considered safe,” Jake explained.
Despite all the challenges, bias, and abuse, the pair is still deeply in love and has no regrets about being married. They have been happily married for more than 70 years.
These two are a true inspiration, and I wish them a lifetime of pleasure because of the love they have for one another.