When Joan Hurt told her parents about her plans to marry Henry, they cut her out of their lives.
“[To say] they were horrified was an understatement,” Joan said. “They sold their house, moved to a different city, and I wasn’t able to speak to them for about five years.”
The neighborhood where Joan grew up was unwelcoming to the thought of a white woman married to a Black man.
“My parents, in particular, were not comfortable with other races,” she said.
Henry was brought up with a different viewpoint.
“My mom raised us to not see color, to accept people for what [they are inside] and to not be prejudiced” he said.
Interracial marriage was legal in the U.S. for just 12 years when the Milwaukee couple married in 1979.
According to the Pew Research Center, one in five new marriages is now interracial. While statistics suggest that interracial marriages in America have gained greater acceptance, the challenges did not disappear.
Henry and Joan are now Jehovah’s Witnesses. While the couple has experienced several occasions of impolite treatment in public, they have found ways to cope.
“We have friends that are going to be there to listen and be supportive,” said Joan.
A shared religious faith along with a community of fellow believers have been invaluable in navigating the cultural complexities.
Worshipping and associating with a diverse group of people in their congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses helped the Hurts’ two children see God’s impartiality.
“They were surrounded by people of all different races,” Henry said. “They could see that people were the same.”
According to a study conducted by the University of Utah, married couples who had shared values reported higher levels of marital happiness and individual well-being than those who did not.
After 42 years of marriage, Henry and Joan treasure their time together through their volunteer ministry and reading the Bible. They also enjoy staying active.
“We like to travel, go camping, play table games and golf together,” Henry said.
The Hurts found that having a marriage centered around their love for God is fundamental to an unbreakable bond. They also credit the Bible-based publications published by
Jehovah’s Witnesses with providing them the help needed to handle various situations in life.
“We’ve been able to get through a lot of things based on what we’ve been taught from God’s word,” Henry said.
More information on the activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses, including resources for happy family life, can be found on its official website, www.jw.org.