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Interracial Marriage Then and Now

Together for decades, four couples discuss struggles and offer advice

  • Photo by Christa Renee/DS Reps

    Fred and Ann Jealous, Pacific Grove, Calif.

    When friendship turned to something more for Fred and Ann Jealous in 1966, they were afraid to hold hands in public. At the movies, they entered separately and met in the middle of a darkened row. Marriage between blacks and whites was illegal then in Maryland, where the couple lived, so Ann didn't consider Fred as a potential husband. But then, "a wall fell down," she says. They wed in Washington, D.C., one year before the Supreme Court deemed anti-miscegenation laws illegal in 1967.

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  • Photo by Christa Renee/DS Reps

    Fred and Ann Jealous, Pacific Grove, Calif.

    Married 45 years By marrying Ann, Fred lost his inheritance. Most of his New England family stopped all contact, appalled that their name would be passed on to a black child. Still, the Jealouses wouldn't let racism cloud how much they had in common: a taste for adventure, a love of education and a commitment to social justice. And their legacy? Their son, Benjamin, a Rhodes scholar, is now president of the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the country.

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  • Photo by Amy Mikler

    Steven and Denise Beumer, Casselberry, Fla.

    Steven and Denise were known as a "mixed-up couple" in Detroit in the '70s and '80s. They couldn't get a mortgage approved in a white neighborhood until Steve threatened legal action. A neighbor once asked Denise to fill in for her housekeeper, thinking she was the hired help, not a homeowner. "You can be nice to them, son," Steven's mother told him. "But you don't marry them."

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  • Photo by Amy Mikler

    Steven and Denise Beumer, Casselberry, Fla.

    Married 35 years Steven and Denise say that interracial unions like theirs are not for everyone. "You have to be selfish," says Denise. "Steve and I both made a decision to not care about what anyone else thinks."

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  • Photo by Christa Renee

    Peter and Jean Lin, Saratoga, Calif.

    Peter's mother was skeptical when he and Jean began dating. Chinese people who married outside their race were considered traitors. In their early years, the Lins were treated rudely at a gas station and were ordered out of a picnic area. When Jean traveled with her Chinese family, people sometimes assumed she was a tour guide.

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  • Photo by Christa Renee

    Peter and Jean Lin, Saratoga, Calif.

    Married 39 years Emotions resurface for Jean and Peter when they see their son, who is gay, and his partner confront similar prejudice. "They have a much tougher life than we ever did," says Peter. "Same-sex couples right now are the ones facing the biggest obstacles." Jean's and Peter's advice? Keep communicating well. Do not let other people make you feel bad about yourself. "And have a sense of humor about things," says Jean. "That goes a long way."

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  • Photo by Ball & Albanese

    Chris and Minerva Warwin, New York

    "What you doing with that Aunt Jemima?" Chris Warwin would hear such comments in the 1970s and 1980s when he was with Minerva. But the insults weren't only reserved for her. "Why is sister here with the white devil?" Minerva recalls hearing from a Nation of Islam member on a subway platform.

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  • Photo by Ball & Albanese

    Chris and Minerva Warwin, New York

    Married 43 years Being an interracial couple does not define the Warwins. "Two people fall in love. Why is this news?" says Chris. Their past also taught the Warwins that "you have to step away and realize that your new family is going to be where you go," says Chris. "You can't let the old family hold you back."

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In the last 30 years, the number of interracial marriages in the U.S. has more than doubled. In 1980, 7 percent of new marriages brought together people from different racial or ethnic backgrounds, reports the Pew Research Center. Today, 15 percent of newlyweds are crossing the racial divide.

See also: Faces of the Freedom Rides: Ten who went, then and now.

Societal attitudes about these unions have also shifted. Today, nearly
two-thirds of Americans say they're fine with people marrying someone of a different race. In 1986, only 28 percent of people agreed with that
statement.

Here are the stories of four couples, married more than 30 years, who
crossed racial, societal and even legal barriers to be the pioneers that
paved the way for today's new way of thinking about interracial marriages.

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