New Documentary Honors Black G.I.s and Their Brides from Cardiff, Wales

Dec 25, 2013 by

A newspaper clipping of Dr Hill-Jackson's in-laws, Patti Ann Ismail and Bowen Keiffer Jackson Sr

A newspaper clipping of Dr Hill-Jackson’s in-laws, Patti Ann Ismail and Bowen Keiffer Jackson Sr

Saturday, February 15th, 2014 – 8 p.m.

Hotel Derek, Houston

The untold story of the girls from Tiger Bay who fell in love with and married black American soldiers stationed in Cardiff, Wales during World War 11 comes under the spotlight in a new documentary Tiger Brides: Memories of Love and War from the G.I. Brides of Tiger Bay. It premieres Saturday, February 15th, 2014 at 8 p.m. – Hotel Derek; 2525 West Loop S. Houston, TX 77027.

Although British marriages to white G.I.s are well documented, history has ignored those of black G.I.s, particularly their marriages to black or multi-ethnic British women. For the first time some of the Tiger Brides are sharing their stories of the romances that led them to travel half way around the world for love – and some to return, homesick for their roots in the tight-knit, inclusive, multi-cultural community of Tiger Bay (in Cardiff, Wales).

As the documentary demonstrates, it is remarkable that any of the estimated 70-plus Tiger Bay marriages ever developed at all because the U.S. Army did not leave its segregationist policies at home when black G.I.s were brought to Britain.

As well as being assigned to separate bases from their white fellow soldiers, black G.I.s were banned from visiting Butetown and Tiger Bay. But love found a way and they developed methods of dodging the patrolling Military Police –usually with the help of local Tiger Bay residents – so they could visit the girls for whom they had fallen.

It was not all smooth sailing for the brides and would-be brides as they waved goodbye to their G.I. husbands and partners after the war, some as late as the 1950s, and faced the prospect of leaving their families and travelling alone to an unknown new home in America. In many cases their parents’ own life stories will have given them courage – fathers from far flung lands who had joined their first ship to Britain as teenagers and Irish or Welsh mothers who had suffered prejudice for marrying men of a different color or creed, but found sanctuary and acceptance in Tiger Bay.

The thread of romance, love and family does not end there. The unveiling of the Tiger Brides’ intriguing stories is the result of months of painstaking research by an American professor. Dr. Valerie Hill-Jackson was driven to uncover this hidden history because she herself is the daughter-in law of a Tiger Bay Bride – Patti Ann Ismail, of Sophia Street in Tiger Bay.

Patti married Bowen Keiffer Jackson Sr., a Technician Fifth Grade soldier in the U.S. Army, in April 1945. Valerie and her husband, Bowen Jr., came to Wales in 2008 to visit Patti’s home and find out more about her background, wartime experiences and romance.

Having experienced the warmth and strength of the original Tiger Bay residents still living in what is now called Butetown, they understood where Patti’s determination to fight the racism and segregation she found in America came from. Patti married into a Civil Rights dynasty. She was the daughter in-law of the Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson – the mother of the Civil Rights Movement and the President of the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP. Patti played a leading role in the Civil Rights Movement and the NAACP, paving the way for many of the freedoms people enjoy today.

Dr. Hill-Jackson, a scholar of critical teacher education and community studies at Texas A&M University, decided it was no longer acceptable for the stories of Patti and other Tiger Brides to go unheard so she applied for and won a Fulbright scholarship so that she could return and properly research the subject. For several months she interviewed Butetown residents, G.I. brides and their children, local historians, World War 11 experts and anyone else who could help her to piece together the story of wartime black G.I.s and their brides.

The ground breaking documentary was created, narrated, co-produced and co-directed by Dr. Hill-Jackson. It was filmed and co-directed by Anthony and Simon Campbell, of 15th Floor Productions, who were born and raised in Butetown. The documentary was also supported by the Cardiff Community Housing Association in Cardiff Bay and The Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts at Texas A&M University. As special guest, a G.I. Bride from Tiger Bay will be in attendance to field questions immediately following the inaugural U.S. screening of the documentary on February 15th.

**Dr. Hill-Jackson is keen to hear from anyone with photographs, letters, diaries, memories or mementos relating to the G.I. brides’ era, particularly anyone who can identify any G.I. brides from Butetown or Tiger Bay

Dr. Valerie Hill-Jackson is a Fulbright scholar hosted by the Center for Critical and Cultural Theory at the School of English Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University. Fulbright scholars are recipients of a highly competitive, merit-based grant for international educational exchange. The Fulbright award was founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946 as a means to facilitate intercultural understanding around the world. Dr. Hill-Jackson is a Clinical Associate Professor at Texas A&M University.

She can be contacted at vlhjackson@comcast.net or tigerbrides@gmail.com. Also, follow us at www.Facebook.com/tiger.brides.

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