It is Friday once again, and today we will be highlighting the (former) interracial couple Sammy Davis Jr. and May Britt! Sammy Davis Jr. was taking a huge risk in marrying May Britt. It wasn’t until the Supreme court case of Loving vs. Virginia in 1967, that interracial marriages would become legal all throughout the United States. Sammy Davis Jr. was African-American and Cuban, and May Britt is Swedish.
This couple’s marriage was definitely outside the norm for the time period. The union of Sammy and May certainly contributed to the acceptance of interracial marriage here in the United States. Davis and Britt faced a lot of discrimination during their marriage. Not only did the discrimination hurt, it even affected their jobs in the arts. As soon as Davis announced their engagement to the press while in England, the studio Britt was working with immediately canceled her contract with them. The day after their engagement was announced, British fascists booing, shouting and holding signs with racial slurs, picketed the theater that Davis was performing at. Sammy Davis Jr. and May Britt even felt their safety was in danger as well. Davis had gotten many death threats, and was worried for his wife’s safety. Because of this, the two didn’t go out much together. However, when they did go out, Davis brought either a gun or a cane with a knife concealed at the tip. In a book written by Sammy Davis Jr.’s daughter, Tracey Daivs, Sammy Davis Jr.: A Personal History with My Father, it reveals that because of their marriage, Kennedy refused to let Davis perform at his inauguration. Despite the hardships that Davis and Britt faced, they persevered and even contributed to the Civil Rights Movement by joining many marches for freedom with Martin Luther King Jr. Sammy has also been recognized for contributing many hours and lots of money to support this cause. In May of 1963, the couple went to a mass civil rights rally at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field and was greeted by Martin Luther King Jr. as well.
Sammy Davis Jr. and May Britt set a great example for generations of interracial couples to come! Despite their trials and tribulations, the couple didn’t let other people’s opinions sway their love for each other. Davis faced a lot of discrimination, yet he didn’t curl up and hide, while although it hurt, he fought for the rights many people have today. Sammy Davis Jr. and May Britt helped level the path for couples to have interracial relationships, just like my parents!
Project RACE Kids President