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'Tiger Brides' documentary uncovers romantic history

Published: Friday, February 28, 2014

Updated: Friday, February 28, 2014 02:02

Clinical associate professor Valerie Hill-Jackson’s documentary told stories of love found in the most unlikely of places.

Thursday night, Hill-Jackson unveiled her documentary “Tiger Brides: Memories of Love and War from the G.I. Brides of Tiger Bay” at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center. The documentary focused on the tales of six Welsh women who married African-American soldiers during and after WWII.

The black GIs found love in an unlikely place in the diverse community of Tiger Bay in Cardiff, Wales. Bowen Keiffer Jackson Jr., Hill-Jackson’s husband, said the inclusive community became a “cultural mecca” that fostered a documented 101 marriages between Welsh women and black GIs.

Jackson’s mother, Patricia Ann Ismail, was the inspiration for the “Tiger Brides” documentary. Jackson describes his parent’s relationship as “the triumph of love over war.”

The love between Tiger Brides and black GIs had to overcome a “forbidden” stigma and months, sometimes even years, spent waiting to be reunited after the end of the war, according to the documentary.

In the documentary, Tiger Bride Margaret “Jeana” Lassiter said there were doubts that plagued her while she waited reunite her family.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder, sometimes,” Lassiter said. “Sometimes it’s out of sight, out of mind.”

When the Tiger Brides did finally arrive in the U.S., they still faced additional challenges.. According to the documentary, with racism and the Jim Crow laws in full effect, the Tiger Brides were exposed to a level of prejudice they had never experienced in Tiger Bay.

In the closing of the film, Hill-Jackson said the women possessed a remarkable character that allowed them to endure.

“Strong brave and resilient,” Hill-Jackson said. “That’s what made them Tiger Brides.”

Julia Persly, graduate student in the department of teaching learning and culture, said she was aghast that these historical stories had not been shared before.

“This project was absolutely fascinating,” Persly said. “Why is this huge piece of information missing?”

According to the documentary, the absence of these stories was due to racism and the U.S. government discouraging those marriages.

Jennifer Leblanc, curriculum and instruction graduate student, said what she favored about the documentary were the Tiger Bride’s accounts about their courtship and marriages with the black GIs.

“My favorite part was the section on the romanticism surrounding the Tiger Brides,” Leblanc said. “At the end, when they are telling their stories of love.”

Jackson said he feels this is an important addition to history of WWII.

“By understanding the past we are better prepared for the future,” Jackson said.

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