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Black woman received so much hate mail for marrying white man. 50 years on, they're still happily married

"We laugh all the time — but it ain’t always roses. We have fun together," the actress said of her marriage.

Black woman received so much hate mail for marrying white man. 50 years on, they're still happily married
Cover Image Source: Instagram/Leslie Uggams

In most cases, stardom is all it takes for the press to obsess over every detail of a couple's love life or marriage. However, for Leslie Uggams and her husband Grahame Pratt, it was the fact that they were a Black woman and a White man, that made theirs a high-profile relationship in the 60s. Over five decades later, the couple's marriage has survived the tides of time and societal shifts. "We laugh all the time — but it ain’t always roses. We have fun together," the actress told PEOPLE when asked how they’ve stayed strong as a couple all these years.


Uggams opened up about "her marriage across color line" in an in-depth interview with Ebony in 1967. "I remember the shock I got once when I was dating a White boy. He sent me a color picture of himself. I showed it to my aunt. He was a good-looking boy with beautiful hair. I thought he was gorgeous. But my aunt to one look and started in to lecture me. 'Well he's alright, I suppose,' she told me, 'but only for dates, huh, honey? When you're thinking of settling down for keeps you'll make sure you marry a nice [Black] fella, won't you?'" the Deadpool star told Hugh Cornow.


"I thought, oh God, no, there can't be this sort of feeling in my family... But there was. When I turned 18, I told my father that I was of age to choose my own friends and escorts and that there was no longer any need for curfews," Uggams revealed. Not long after, she went to Sydney for her first appearance at Chequers nightclub. This was when she met Grahame. "I'll never forget that night," the star shared. "He came around to my dressing room and I don't mind telling you he was loaded. It turned out he had been drinking steadily since lunchtime with some of his friends."


"I don't know why I ever agreed to join them for yet another drink, but I did. I reckon I must have liked his style. I remember thinking he was English, not Australian. After that evening my mother and I saw plenty of Grahame. I found myself really falling for him, which was quite a thing for me to realize as I was only 21 at the time and I was kinda hung on Ronnie Eckstine anyway," Uggams continued. Although she left Sydney, her path crossed with Grahame again 12 months later.


"I thought I knew a little more about the situation than Grahame did, though," she said. "I believed he loved me and wanted to marry me, but at the same time, I felt he might also have welcomed a way out of our love, if that were possible. I mean it is a tremendous responsibility to take on a mixed marriage like ours. There are so many things stacked up against any marriage being a happy one, you've got to think hard about taking on extra obstacles."


Uggams identified three problems they would have to contend with if they got married: the racial tensions in America, the fact that she was not going to quit her work in show business, and Grahame having to move to the United States. "I felt that as I was the one who would be taking him away from the sort of life he had been used to, it was up to me to make sure he really knew what it would be like," the star explained. Uggams and Grahame got engaged for five months, during which he came to New York to meet her family.


Despite her worries, her family welcomed him with open arms. "[Grahame] had none of the self-consciousness about the situation that a White American often has. He fitted in easily with all my friends… just because he liked them. And they certainly liked him, both the men and the girls," Uggams said. The couple tied the knot in 1965. "It was not as hard as I expected it to be," the actress admitted in a recent interview. "I think the reason is that Grahame was not an American white man. But of course, we did get mail."


She also spoke about the hate mail in her 1967 interview with Cornow. "Sometimes when I go on tour through the States, I get anonymous letters about being married to a White man," the actress said at the time. "I remember I got one in Detroit, of all places. It came to the club addressed to 'The Little [n-word] Entertainer.' They're always addressed something like that and they're not pleasant to read. I just hope when we do have children, and by the time they grow up, America will have fewer nuts writing those sort of letters. I just was my children to be as happy as we both are... Then they'll have everything that is worth living for." The couple is now parents to Danielle, 51, and son Justice, 46.

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