Valentine’s Day: Celebrating Interracial Couples

Happy early Valentine’s Day, friends! Valentine’s Day brings about a lot of mixed feelings for a lot of different people. And that’s understandable. But for me, personally, this day reminds me that there is hope. There is hope that love can conquer even the hardest of obstacles and the darkest of ages. My parents remind me of that on Valentine’s Day. (They remind me of that every day but it’s especially remembered today.) They didn’t have to endure nearly as much as many other interracial couples have in the past. But they faced their own share of obstacles and still came out on top. It inspires me. ❤ And so do these other amazing couples that have used the power of love to conquer racism and discrimination. These people should be considered heroes, especially for the mixed race community, and even more so for mixes of black and caucasian. I think Valentine’s Day is a great day to honor them. 🙂

Frederick Douglass & Helen Pitts

Frederick Douglass was an American writer, statesman and social reformer of the 19th century. He was born a slave; his father was the slave owner. In 1838, Frederick escaped slavery and married a woman named Anna, raising 5 children with her. But after she died, Frederick met white abolitionist and suffragist, Helen Pitts. The two of them quickly fell in love. And in 1884, they married. This, of course, was very much against the wishes of Frederick’s children and Helen’s family. And I’m sure it wasn’t very well known, except to close friends and family. A marriage like this was to be kept under wraps. But quoting writer, Paul Holtum, “Douglass’s marriage was an affirmation of his personal belief in American unity, and his desire for a true melting pot of cultures within the United States.”

Helen, herself, said, “Love came to me, and I was not afraid to marry the man I loved because of his color.” This said, it’s true that Frederick did have an affair (with a white woman) that lasted 26 years, before marrying Helen. So, we know he doesn’t have the greatest moral compass. (Yikes.) But today, we celebrate his marriage to Helen; a day when he set aside a younger, more careless version of himself and married for love, and for a more united America.

Sir Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams Khama

Sir Seretse and Lady Khama at their daughters wedding. 25/12/72. © Sunday Times.

Prince Seretse Khama was the son of the Chief of the Bangwato tribe in modern-day Botswana. When Seretse’s father died, his uncle sent him to London to continue his studies before becoming Chief. It was there in London that Seretse met Ruth Williams; a white American mathematician. The two married only one year later in 1948. This caused a spike of outrage on all sides. The apartheid government of South Africa was furious, especially the tribal elders, as was Ruth’s family. Eventually, Seretse’s tribe declared him “unfit” to take his father’s place as Chief and ex-communicated him from the tribe. His uncle said, “If he brings his white wife here, I will fight him to the death.” Ruth’s father kicked her out of the house. The British government even tried to stop the wedding. But when that didn’t work, Botswana forbade Seretse to return home with his wife.

Ruth and Seretse felt there was nothing left for them to do but to find their own path. Seretse gave up his place on the throne. Ruth found a place for them to stay in peace, and there they stayed for eight years.

But in 1961, Seretse founded the Nationalist Bechuanaland Democratic Party and became Prime Minister of Bechuanaland. And when Botswana gained its independence in 1966, Seretse became the country’s first president! He was officially named President Seretse Khama…and Ruth became the First Lady. Records show that Ruth was a very active and influential First Lady. Queen Elizabeth II even knighted Seretse, naming him, “Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”. It seemed only then that some began to deem their marriage legitimate…and perhaps even acceptable. Their marriage is said to have inspired the film, A Marriage of Inconvenience and the book, Colour Bar.

Here’s one more picture of them because I think it’s badass.

Pearl Bailey & Louis Bellson

Most people know Pearl Bailey as the famous singer and actress– but not everyone knows she was married to Louis Bellson. (I didn’t until recently!) He was a white jazz drummer and played in the famous Duke Ellington’s band. Their marriage in 1952 caused quite a few waves. But Duke Ellington welcomed their marriage and Louis wasn’t afraid to tour on the road in the band, with Pearl at his side. Before long, Louis even became her music director and directed her arrangements for her own tours. Louis and Pearl were married for 38 years and adopted two children. I have no doubt that black and white Americans who may have loved someone of a different race were inspired by this sweet couple. ❤

Sammy Davis Jr. & May Britt

Sammy Davis Jr. married white actress, May Britt, in 1960. They faced unbelievable hardships. And perhaps it’s because it was fairly recent that it seems so hard to swallow. Interracial marriage was still illegal in 31 US states. But they did it anyway. And because of it, they faced utmost chaos. But they faced it together. Here’s what an article on ListVerse says on their marriage:

“Earlier that year (1960) the Democratic Convention took place in Los Angeles where John F. Kennedy would be elected as the Democrats’ presidential nominee. When the introductions of Hollywood celebrities were being announced, Sammy Davis Jr. was booed by many of the white Southern delegates because he was engaged to a white woman. A headline over a New York Times story the next day read, ‘Delegates Boo Negro.’ JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy, was worried that Davis’ marriage to a white woman on the eve of the November election might cost his son votes, so Davis reluctantly postponed the wedding until after the election.”

However, when they did marry, Frank Sinatra was Sammy’s best man at his wedding, and several other celebrities attended in support, too. Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, Janet Leigh, Shirley MacLaine and Milton Berle were a few.

Unfortunately, after their marriage, Sammy was busy touring most of the time and May was left home. So they spent little time together. Eventually, this led to divorce. But the marriage lasted for a long while, and neither one was afraid to show their love for each other publicly. Their love always triumphed over hate. ❤

Richard & Mildred Loving

One of the most popular interracial American couples is the Lovings. Richard and Mildred Loving married in 1958 and it was the power of their love that changed the law forbidding interracial marriage. They met as children and their friendship eventually grew into romance. When Mildred was 18, she realized she was pregnant with Richard’s child…and so the two decided to travel to Washington D.C. to get married. But only five weeks after the wedding day, policemen literally barged into their home at 2 am and arrested them for illegal marriage. It was in 1959 that they pleaded guilty to the charge and were sentenced to a year in prison. The sentence would only be suspended if the two of them were to leave Virginia and never return for 25 years. So they did.

They moved to D.C. And while they relished in their love for each other, they did face discrimination there, as well as an anger sparked by being forbidden to visit their families. So they brought the case up to Robert F. Kennedy, who sent it onward to the American Civil Liberties Union. Nine years passed…and finally, their case was able to be heard before the Supreme Court.

And in 1967, the law was unanimously passed legalizing interracial marriage in the United States.

Richard said, “For the first time, I could put my arm around Mildred and publicly call her my wife.” Their story is now the premise for the film, Loving (which I still have yet to see! It’s at the top of my list for Valentine’s Day, as well as for Black History Month.)

Prince Harry & Meghan Markle

Anyone who knows me knows I could go on about this couple forever. For those who don’t know, Prince Harry (Queen Elizabeth of England’s grandson) recently married American actress, Meghan Markle. Meghan was already a hero of mine as a mixed woman. I had never seen someone so openly discuss being mixed race until I saw her on TV many years ago, discussing her challenges as well as her blessings, and her aspirations as an activist. Then she went and got hitched to Prince Harry. And it was one of the most magical weddings I’ve ever seen.

However, much of Britain doesn’t necessarily see what us mixed and black sisters see. Meghan is African-American, divorced and an actress from LA. All things that don’t “look good” in the British Royal Family. While racism may be more subtle now than it was in 1959, Meghan and Harry have experienced several forms of discrimination after their marriage, primarily from the British press. In the eyes of the Royal Family, Harry’s marriage to Meghan could almost be considered a scandal. Which is so sad, given that Meghan is the epitome of a kind, warm-hearted, strong, politically active, bold and loving woman. And that’s perhaps why the Royal Family doesn’t take to her very much…she’s a bit too bold. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and stand up for what she believes in, even with absolute class and grace.

It was even considered bold that she and Harry included quite a bit of black culture in their wedding in 2018, which was held at Windsor Castle. A black American preacher gave a sermon and a beautiful black gospel choir sang “Stand By Me” and “Amen/This Little Light of Mine” as Meghan was named Duchess of Sussex. (My mom and I cried tears of joy as we watched on TV.) These seem like minuscule details but take it from a British history enthusiast like myself– nothing like this had ever been done for a British Royal wedding. In fact, never in the entire history of British royalty (which spans back to at least the 5th century) has there ever been an (openly) black person in the royal line. Harry and Meghan’s marriage, alone, made history.

After their wedding, they faced muted (but still ever-present) forms of racism and even threats. Especially once their child, Archie, was born. Harry and Meghan grew afraid of the kind of life their son might have to face, constantly in the spotlight of the press. Especially given the fact that Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, was killed literally being chased by the British press. So last year, Harry and Meghan gave up their titles and moved to LA to raise their son. This also has rarely happened in the Royal Family; a prince renouncing his title to go live in a country with no monarchy.

Luckily, Harry and Meghan seem to be much happier and healthier here in the US, and grateful for the freedom to be able to openly support movements like the Black Lives Matter movement, amongst others that they would be forbidden to support in the eyes of the British monarchy. They are the picture of what true love looks like. It’s stronger than anything. ❤ They give me hope, and so much joy to so many others. They even have a new podcast available on Spotify, called Archewell Audio! Check it out!

Kamala Harris & Douglas Emhoff

We can’t talk interracial couples and not mention our U.S. Vice President! Indian and Jamaican-American Vice President Kamala Harris met Douglas Emhoff, a white lawyer, on a blind date. Doug was an entertainment lawyer and Kamala was serving as California’s attorney general at the time. The two of them met at an event, and according to Kamala, something sparked between the two of them almost immediately. Doug said he sent Kamala a schedule of all his free days in the coming weeks, telling her that he “wants to make this work.” And they did. 🙂 In no time, a friend set the two of them up on a date…and the rest is history!

Thankfully, Kamala and Douglas haven’t faced much discrimination as a couple– if anything, they’ve experienced the opposite. ❤ And to add icing on the cake, they’ve made history as the first interracial couple in the White House. (This is technically aside from Barack and Michelle Obama, since Barack is actually half-Caucasian. But this is the first one that’s been openly addressed as such.) I can’t wait to delve more into Kamala and her ethnic and racial identity in future blog posts. In the meantime, the sweet and wholesome love between Doug and Kamala is both inspiring and a joy to watch. 🙂

My Parents: Charlie Bertini & Denise Aubrey-Bertini

My parents inspire me so much! My father, Charlie, is a trumpet player, amongst other things. He’s the owner of a record label, a music producer, recording engineer, conductor and music teacher. But his heart will always belong first and foremost to the trumpet. My mother was a dancer. She danced in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and later, with her cousin, became the first African-American aerial artists in American circus history.

The circus is actually where my parents met. My father played trumpet in the band, and later became the band conductor. So he played the music for my mom’s aerial act, as she danced on a star in mid-air and hung from her neck, spinning in circles faster than light, it seemed. Before long, they fell in love and were married in 1990.

They also have had very few experiences regarding racism, as a couple. They both have expressed how extremely lucky they feel to have been accepted into each other’s families with open arms. It makes my heart swell to think of the many interracial couples throughout history that have paved the way for people like my parents. Because of the bravery of blended couples in the past, people of different races today can love one another openly, and in peace. ❤

My parents moved to Orlando and bought a house. Then they had me. 🙂 Now my father teaches trumpet lessons and plays local gigs. My mother recently retired from her long-time job as a fitness trainer and massage therapist at a Disney hotel. So the two of them now have all the time in the world to live happily ever after. ❤

These couples have shaped the picture of what love looks like, as have the many other interracial couples throughout time, not just in America but all over the world. Some are still doing it. And the product is us! To my fellow blended brothers and sisters, we are literally the product of strong, unyielding, unbreakable love. Our parents may have faced many obstacles to get us where we are today. But we are the proof that true love cannot be broken by hate, or fear. It surfaces in a beautiful blend of culture that lives in us. And I think that, in itself, is something worth celebrating on Valentine’s Day. ❤

Published by arthuriananerd

Arthurian enthusiast, podcaster of "Of Swords and Magic" and blogger of "Beautifully Blended". Writer, actor, tea-fanatic. Instagram: @ofswordsandmagic.podcast or @lj_bertini

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