The Jacobs' love story is a testament to a phrase that has been used so much, it's almost a cliché today: Love conquers all.
Cover image used for representational purposes only.
Ever so often, there comes a real-life love story so powerful and inspiring that you're simply left in awe of the couple who lived it. In today's world of dating apps and one-night stands—a time when young generations have lost faith in the institution of marriage—stories such as the one of Mary and Jake Jacobs stand apart as though from a time long forgotten. This couple's marriage has earned a spot in history as not just one that stood the test of time for over 7 decades. Rather, the Jacobs' love story is a testament to a phrase that has been used so much, it's almost a cliché today: Love conquers all.
Born in Britain and Trinidad respectively, Mary and Jake fell in love in a time when interracial relationships were fiercely condemned. Although being an interracial couple in Britain back in the '40s all but guaranteed that they'd been ostracized by their loved ones, they stood by each other through every adversity life threw at them. After all, their love story had begun in the midst of war—when Jake was serving in the UK during World War II.
According to Daily Mail, recounting their love story during an interview, Mary said, "I met Jake when he came over during the war from Trinidad, as part of the American forces stationed at the Burtonwood base near my home in Lancashire. We were at the same technical college. I was having typing and shorthand lessons and he’d been sent there for training by the Air Force. He was with a group of black friends and they called my friend and me over to talk. We didn’t even know they spoke English, but Jake and I got chatting. He quoted Shakespeare to me, which I loved."
"A few weeks later we went for a picnic, but were spotted by a lady cycling past—two English girls with a group of black men was very shocking — and she reported me to my father, who banned me from seeing him again," she continued. Once the war was over, Jake had to leave Mary behind and return to Trinidad. The two sent each other love letters during their time apart and soon Jake realized that he couldn't be apart from his beloved any longer. He returned to the UK within a few years and immediately asked Mary to be his wife.
"He asked me to marry him, quite out of the blue, when I was only 19," Mary recalled. "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.' He was horrified that I could contemplate marrying a black man. My father threw me out, and I left with only one small suitcase to my name. No family came to our register office wedding in 1948," Mary recounted. "The first years of our marriage living in Birmingham were hell—I cried every day, and barely ate. No one would speak to us, we couldn’t find anywhere to live because no one would rent to a black man, and we had no money."
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
"People would point at us in the street. Then I gave birth to a stillborn son at eight months. It wasn’t related to the stress I was under but it broke my heart, and we never had any more children," she revealed. "But gradually life became easier. I got teaching jobs, ending up as a deputy headteacher. First Jake worked in a factory, then for the Post Office." With no family to fall back on, the couple slowly began making friends. However, it wasn't always easy as they faced a lot of discrimination and prejudice from those who couldn't accept a white woman and a black man being together. "I used to say to new friends: 'Look, I have to tell you this before I invite you to my home—my husband is black,'" Mary recalled.
"My father died when I was 30 and although we were reconciled by then, he never did approve of Jake," she revealed. A few years ago, Mary and Jake celebrated their 70th anniversary. "I feel so fortunate to have met and married Mary, but it saddens me that we could not be accepted by society. Nowadays I say to young black people: 'You have no idea what it used to be like.' When I arrived in the UK 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 thought to be safe," said Jake.
Speaking to The CUT in 2019, Jake said, "The day-to-day cooking is my job; I’ve always done it, except when we expect kosher visitors. Then it’s done by my wife. We men think we’re always right, but we’re never always. My wife and I are going into 71 years of marriage and we’re still working on it. Unfortunately, Mary has a slight form of Alzheimer’s coming on. The doctors are trying their best, but they haven’t found a cure yet. But we’re hoping. She’s 89 this year, and I’m 93."