When Martha Mae Ophelia Moon Tucker got married, she could not wear a wedding dress because bridal shops did not allow Black women inside.
For many Americans today, the reality of Jim Crow laws may seem like a long-ago history. However, there are still individuals alive today who personally experienced the era. We must look no further than Martha Mae Ophelia Moon Tucker, who had to wait 70 years before she could wear a wedding dress. When she got married, bridal shops did not permit Black women inside. The 94-year-old recently donned a wedding dress, a life-long dream of hers. Tucker called the moment incredibly special, and a Facebook post uploaded by her about her little adventure has since gone viral, Advance Local Alabama reports.
"I’ve always wanted to try on a wedding dress," Tucker told her granddaughter Angela Strozier under her breather one night. The nonagenarian was watching her favorite movie, Coming to America, when she whispered her life-long dream to her granddaughter. Before that moment, she had never said it out loud. Therefore, Strozier was determined to make her dream come true. "She said she never wore a wedding dress when she got married," she said. "I said, ‘That’s no problem.’ She kinda brushed me off. She didn’t think I would do it." However, two days later, Tucker's dream had come true.
Her granddaughter arranged for a trip to David’s Bridal in Hoover, Alabama. Tucker said in an interview with Advance Local Alabama, "You know, I can’t even express how special it was. It was too special. I’ve been wanting to do that a long time, just put one on." When they arrived at the bridal store and explained why they were there, the shop keepers began fussing over Tucker almost immediately. Strozier shared, "Everyone was so elated to help me do that for her. Everyone was catering to her because I told them her story." The Birmingham makeup artist Pharris Clayton even gave the 94-year-old a makeover in the car (as walking is sometimes a task for her).
At the store, Tucker was able to try on two wedding dresses and was elated with what she saw and how she felt. "When she walked out of the room and saw herself in the mirror, she said, ‘Oh, look at me,’" her granddaughter recalled. "One of the other brides that was in there started crying." Tucker said she felt like she was getting married. She stated, "I wondered what I would look like walking down the aisle. I was like ‘Coming to America.’ It was exciting to me. I didn’t want to take it off, but I knew I had to. I looked good in it though."
Tucker, born in Alexander City in 1927, moved to Birmingham when she was 15. In 1952, she married the love of her life, Lehman Tucker Sr. At the time, Black women were not allowed inside bridal shops owing to discriminatory Jim Crow laws. Therefore, the family Tucker worked for provided her with a navy blue “mermaid dress,” known as a “Carmen Jones dress.” Over the years, she went on to work with Civil Rights leaders for voting rights in Alabama and, in 1963, became a registered voter and poll worker. In November 2020, she retired as a chief poll worker, after 57 years of working elections. Though her husband passed in 1975 and she never wished to remarry, she always wanted to try on a wedding dress. Strozier said of her grandma, "Being fantastic is just an understatement of who she is. She has always told us to give her her flowers while she’s still here, not when she’s gone, so she can enjoy them. So, whenever she expresses that she wants to do something, wants to go somewhere, wants to experience something, we try to do our best to make it happen. She’s our grandmother, and to have a grandmother so full of life at 94 is a blessing." Tucker and her husband had four children. 11 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and one great, great grandchild.