Fascinating black-white interracial couples of yester years
46 years ago, interracial marriage was legalized in all 50 states. Attitudes towards interracial marriage have changed and now interracial marriages are common in many countries. This wasn’t so before... especially where black and white couples were concerned. But even so, the couples on this list didn’t let prejudice stand in their way of true love. And these couples set precedence for most interracial couples we see today.
Married in 1952: Pearl Bailey and Louie Bellson
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Louie Bellson was a famous jazz drummer, composer and bandleader and his lady Pearl Mae Bailey was a well-known singer and actress. The two met after being in introduced by a trombone player and it’s pretty clear that the couple hit it off immediately because their courtship only lasted four days and got married in London.
Bellson and Bailey were married for 38 years, until Bailey’s death in 1990, at age 72. Bellson died at age 84, in 2009.
Bailey remained with the Republican party even when most blacks moved to the Democratic Party because the couple felt the Republican party was more accepting of their interracial marriage.
Married in 1960: Betty and Barney Hill
Betty was a social worker and Barney worked for the post office. The two were also and community leaders and members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) .
The two claimed to be alien abductees. And in separate hypnosis sessions, Betty and Barney gave similar accounts of being taken on board an alien spacecraft. But much as they believed their abduction to be real, some psychiatrists later suggested that it was just a hallucination brought on by the pressure of being an interracial couple in the early 60s. Betty refuted this saying their interracial relationship was a happy one and their family and friends were accepting of it.
Barney died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1969, and Betty died of cancer in 2004.
Married in 1899: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Jessie Walmisley
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was one of Britain’s most outstanding and well renowned composers. He was mixed race (born of black father and white mother). Jessie Walmisley was a pianist. The two were classmates in high school.
Jessie’s family had been strongly opposed to the marriage and tried all they could prevent it. However they must have given up because on the eve of the wedding, Mrs. Walmisley requested Samuel to the family home where she and her husband shook his hand; a symbol for acceptance.
The Coleridge-Taylor family were targets of abuse from groups of local youths who would constantly insult Coleridge-Taylor because of his skin color.
Samuel died at of pneumonia complicated by fatigue from overwork in 1912 when he was just 37 years old.
Married in 1960: Sammy Davis Jr. and May Britt
Sammy Davis Jr campaigned for JFK to help him win the election. And when he hooked up with the sexy blonde Swedish actress May Britt in 1960, they fell hopelessly in love. And when they announced their wedding date, what followed were death threats that forced them to hire a 24-hour armed guard. At the time, interracial marriage was outlawed in 31 states.
Earlier that year while being introduced as one of the Hollywood celebrities, Davis was booed by many of the white Southern delegates because he was engaged to a white woman; with the New York Times story the following day reading: "Delegates Boo Negro."
Sammy was to get married to Britt on the eve of the elections and because of the racial tension, Frank Sinatra asked Sammy to postpone the wedding afraid that his wedding to a white woman might cost JFK votes. After the elections, JFK refused to let Sammy perform at the inauguration despite him working tirelessly for the campaign... all because of his marriage to Britt. Sammy was crushed by this.
Their marriage was the target of hate mail, bad jokes, vicious slurs and even death threats. They however divorced in 1968 after Sammy admitted to having an affair with singer Lola Falana.
Married in 1928: George Schuyler & Josephine Cogdell
George Schuyler was a black journalist from Africa. Josephine Cogdell was an actress, model and dancer who came from a wealthy, former slave-owning family. The couple met through correspondence because of Cogdell's intrigue in new ideas and radical politics that Schuyler published. And when she went to meet him in New York, it was love at first sight for them.
When they got married, Josephine declared herself 'colored' on their marriage certificate because of the dangers against interracial marriages. The couple remained married until George’s death in 1977.
Married in 1911,1912 & 1925: Jack Johnson and his three white wives.
Jack Johnson was a popular American boxer with the title of the first African American world heavyweight-boxing champion. He was married thrice to wives Etta Terry Duryea, Lucille Cameron, and Irene Pineau.
In 1911, he married Etta. Apparently Johnson was physically abusive towards her and was often unfaithful. Just 8 months after their marriage, Etta committed suicide by shooting herself in the head because of severe depression. Less than three months after Etta's suicide, he met Lucille Cameron, who was an 18 year old prostitute and married her; something that outraged the public. Lucille filed for a divorce in 1920 citing infidelity. He then married Irene in 1925, the woman he was truly devoted to. She remained married to Johnson till his death in 1946.
Married in 1884: Frederick Douglass and Helen Pitts
Frederick Douglass was an American writer, social reformer and statesman. He was the mixed race son of a female black slave and her white owner. Douglas met Helen Pitts, a white abolitionist and suffragist after his first wife died. He married her against the wishes of his children and Helen's family.
Both black and white Americans scorned their marriage but the couple stood their ground. Their marriage was an affirmation of his Douglass's belief in American unity, and his desire for a true melting pot of cultures within the United States. “This proves I am impartial. My first wife was the color of my mother and the second, the color of my father,” he said laughing.
The two were married for eleven years until his sudden death from heart attack in 1895.
Married in 1908: Joseph Philippe Laroche and Juliette Lafargue
Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche left Haiti where he was born and met his wife Juliette Lafargue while studying engineering in France. They got married immediately after receiving his degree.
Because of opposition towards interracial marriages, Laroche decided to return to Haiti aboard the Titanic where the couple also experienced racism especially from the crew members.
As the ship sank, Joseph stuffed his coat packets with money and jewelry and took his pregnant wife and children and managed to get them into the lifeboat. Laroche died in the sinking and his body was never found. He was the only black person of African descent (besides his children) on the Titanic.
Married in 1948: Sir Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams
Sir Seretse Khama came from the most powerful royal family in Botswana where his father was the Chief. When his father died, he was sent to England where he met Ruth Williams while studying for his bar exams. They shared a passion for jazz music which led to a romantic relationship and got married.
His marriage sparked furor among both the apartheid government of South Africa and the tribal elders. Khama was immediately banned from the chieftainship but was later re-affirmed and eventually became Chief. Botswana gained its independence in 1966 and Seretse Khama became the country’s first President. Lady Khama was a very influential and politically active first lady from 1966 until his death in 1980. She was appointed Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth in 1966.
Married in 1958: Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter
Richard and Mildred met when he was 17 and she was 11. They are the interracial couple that always takes the number one spot because their marriage overturned state laws in the United States that prohibited interracial marriages.
At 18, she realized she was pregnant so they ran off to get married. Five weeks later, they were arrested for being married. They pleaded guilty in 1959 and were sentenced to one year in jail. The sentence was suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return for 25 years. They moved to Washington, D.C., where they faced housing discrimination.
After many setbacks, The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in their favor in 1967. Richard later said “For the first time, I could put my arm around Mildred and publicly call her my wife.” He died in 1975 at 41. Mildred died of pneumonia in 2008, at 68. There is a yearly celebration called Loving Day on June 12, the anniversary of the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision.
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