Jake and Mary Jacobs recently celebrated 70 years of being happily married, despite facing numerous challenges along the way. The couple met in 1940s Britain, where Jake, a black man, was one of the very few individuals of his race living in the city.
Despite Mary, who is white, receiving opposition from her father, who told her she would never be allowed back in the house if she married Jake, she chose to stay with her love and not let societal pressures get in the way of her happiness.
“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 met in Lancashire during the war. They were both attending a technical college, with Mary taking typing and shorthand lessons and Jake training with the Air Force. They struck up a conversation and Jake impressed Mary with his knowledge of Shakespeare. The couple and their friends went on a picnic, but they were seen by a passing cyclist who was shocked to see two English girls talking with black men.
The woman reported the incident to Mary’s father, who was also shocked and forbade her from seeing Jake again. Despite the distance, the couple continued to write to each other, and a few years later, Jake returned to the UK for better-paying work.
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Jake proposed to Mary when she was 19 and she said yes, but when she told her family they disowned her. They got married in a registry office but none of her family came to the wedding. Mary’s father was against her marrying a black man and she soon realized that the rest of society felt the same way.
The first few years of their marriage in Birmingham were extremely difficult. People wouldn’t speak to them, they had trouble finding a place to live, and were constantly being discriminated against. Even just walking down the street together was a challenge as people would stare and point. Mary shared these experiences with the Daily Mail.
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Mary became pregnant and was excited to become a parent. However, at eight months, she gave birth to a stillborn child. She said that the loss wasn’t related to the stress she was under, but it still broke her heart. The couple didn’t have any more children after that. Later, Mary started working as a teacher and eventually became an assistant principal at a British school. Jake found a job at the Post Office.
The couple made new friends, but Mary said she felt the need to explain to people that her husband was black before introducing them to him. She also mentioned that her father had passed away when she was 30 and they had reconciled by then, but he never approved of Jake.
What was it like to be in a mixed race relationship in the 1940s and 50s? We meet Jake and Mary Jacobs who got married in 1948 pic.twitter.com/E56ZP6QLbs
— BBC Radio 2 (@BBCRadio2) October 13, 2016
Mary and Jake, who are 86 and 91 years old respectively, recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. They reside in Solihull, located near Birmingham. Jake reflects on his experiences in 1940s Britain and states that he faced daily abuse and discrimination.
He recalls an instance where a man touched his neck on a bus and commented on whether the “dirt would come off.” Back then, Jake was not allowed to work in an office due to the belief that a black man in an office with white women was not safe. Despite all the difficulties and prejudices they faced, the couple is still deeply in love and have no regrets about their marriage. They have been happily married for over seven decades.
These two lovebirds have a strong and enduring love for each other, which has overcome all obstacles and challenges. They serve as a great source of inspiration, and I hope they will continue to experience happiness and joy for many more years to come.