Though their married life was not as hard as they expected, people still showered them with hate because they were of different race.
Marriage, as we know it, is a partnership between two people who love each other. But in the 1960s America, people were mostly forced into marrying partners their parents chose for them. This regressive mindset of society had a deep impact on couples in an interracial marriage.
One such interracial couple is actress Leslie Uggams and Australian Grahame Pratt. After they got married, the couple regularly received hate letters from random people because of their different skin colors.
Born in 1943, Uggams grew up in a rather racial society. She was expected by her people and others, to marry someone of the same race. According to Goalcast, her aunt told her not to entertain any ideas when she found out Uggams was dating a White boy. “I remember the shock I got once when I was dating a white boy. He was a good-looking boy with beautiful hair. I thought he was gorgeous."
"But my aunt took one look and started 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?'”
It was something she had to be mindful of because such an issue could even affect her career. “I had to be extra careful of the company I kept,” she revealed.
She advanced in her career, and once, while performing in Australia, she met Grahame Pratt. “I came for my first appearance at Chequers nightclub and met Grahame.” He was drunk and asked her to join him and his group of friends, which she did.
Though their first meeting was not that ideal, Uggams just couldn't get him out of her head. “I found myself really falling for him, which was quite a thing for me to realize as I was only 21.” Even though she was slowly falling for him, she felt that he wouldn't be able to handle the hate that came his way, because of all the issues back home. “I mean it is a tremendous responsibility to take on a mixed marriage like ours,” she added.
She was also worried about how her family would welcome Pratt. “Knowing my family’s ideas about mixed marriages I wanted to know, too, whether they would really accept Graham and not just tolerate him,” she said. She also knew that he'd have to relocate from Australia, because she would, in no way, give up on her career. But, when it's right, it's right. Pratt readily moved halfway across the world, and he fit in rather easily with Uggam's family, too!
“He 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.”
Eventually, on October 16, 1965, Uggams and Pratt became man and wife. The two of them settled into marital life quite easily. They lived in New York where hardly anyone made nasty remarks. “It was not as hard as I expected it to be,” Leslie told PEOPLE. “I think the reason is that Grahame was not an American white man. But of course, we did get mail.”
Uggams was the recipient of hate mails from people who had no idea about her married life, except that she was a Black woman married to a White man. “Sometimes when I go on tour through the States I get anonymous letters about being married to a white man,” Uggams revealed. “I remember I got one in Detroit of all places. It came to the club addressed to ‘The Little Negro Entertainer.’ They’re always addressed something like that and they’re not pleasant to read.”
But it didn't bother them one bit. But all they wanted back in 1967 was simple: "I just want my children to be happy as we both are…Then they’ll have everything that is worth living for.” The couple went on to have two children: Danielle and Justice, 42, and are now grandparents of Cassidy, 7, an aspiring actress.
As for how they’ve made it work all these years, Uggam said “We laugh all the time — but it ain’t always roses. We have fun together.”
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Dia Dipasupi