Jake and Mary Jacobs celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary the year before last. Although they have had their share of ups and downs throughout the years, they have overcome every obstacle to achieve this milestone in their marriage.
It was the 1940s in Britain when Mary, who is White, met Jake, who is Black. Although they both lived in a city, Jake was one of a very small number of black men in that area at the time.
Even though Mary’s father told her to leave, she chose to remain with the human she loved, even though it would have been easier for her to leave. Mary’s decision was motivated by the fact that she had fallen in love.
“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 was enrolled in typing and shorthand lessons at the same technical college as Jake, who was finishing his military service with the Air Force. The couple first met when Jake moved to the United States from Trinidad during the war.
Jake started talking with Mary, who was residing in Lancashire. During their discussion, Jake impressed Mary with his knowledge of Shakespeare.
Mary and her friend were surprised to see two English girls chatting with black males, so the lady who saw them cycling reported Mary to her father. He and his friend invited Mary and her friend out for a picnic, and they were seen by a lady who was cycling by. Her father’s words stunned him, and he banned Mary from ever seeing him again.
They kept communicating with one another after Jake had returned to Trinidad, and a few years later, he moved back to the United Kingdom in search of a job that earned a higher salary.
Jake took Mary by surprise when he proposed marriage to her; she was only 19 years old when she accepted, but after she told her family, they threw her out of the house.
“I left with only one small suitcase to my name. No family came to our registry office wedding in 1948.”
Mary stated that she had no idea that the rest of society shared her father’s “horrified” response to the prospect of her marrying a black man, and she was surprised to learn that her father’s words were not distinct.
She stated that the first few years of their marriage were a living hell because they were in Birmingham. She was inconsolable and barely ate anything. They had no money; no one would talk to them because no one would rent to a black man, and they couldn’t locate anywhere to live because no one would rent to a black man.
Mary told the Daily Mail that walking down the street together was challenging because people kept pointing and staring at them.
Mary became expectant, and the couple rejoiced in the knowledge that they would soon be able to become parents. However, Mary delivered a stillborn child in the eighth month of her pregnancy.
“It wasn’t related to the stress I was under but broke my heart, and we never had any more children,” she said.
Mary found work as a teacher and eventually became the assistant principal of a British school. Meanwhile, Jake found employment with the Post Office, and their circumstances became less difficult. They met some new people, but Mary revealed that she always needed to explain to new friends that her husband was of African-American descent before introducing them to him.
She stated that her father passed away when she was 30 years old, and even though they had made peace by the time he did so, he never did approve of Jake.
Mary, who is now 84 years old, and Jake, who is 89, recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary and resided in the town of Solihull, located just south of Birmingham.
Jake insists that he has no regrets, but he tells young black people today that they have no idea what life was like for him in Britain during the 1940s.
“Subjected to abuse every day.”
“When I arrived in the U.K. I was subjected to abuse every day. Once, I was on a bus, and a man rubbed his hands on my neck and said, ‘ I wanted to see if the dirt would come off.
“And back then, you couldn’t work in an office — because a black man in an office with all the white girls wasn’t considered safe.”
Despite all the challenges, prejudice, and abuse the couple has experienced, they remain deeply in love with one another and have no regrets about getting married. They have been happily married for over seven decades.
They are a true inspiration, and I hope they have many more years of happiness together. The love that these two have for each other has won over everything.
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