The year was 1952, with racism still heavy in Alabama, as segregation laws kept suppressing black people for generations.
24-year-old Martha Tucker fell in love with her beau; Lehman Tucker, and her dream was to marry her sweetheart in lace white gown, complete with embroidered sleeves and buttons going down the back. But the prevailing conditions at that time ensured her dream remained that, a dream.
“During that time, we couldn’t just walk in those stores. I tried not to think about buying a wedding dress because I knew I wouldn’t even be allowed inside. I was very upset about it, but it’s not like there was anything I could do.”
36 years later, Martha, now a grandmother was watching the wedding scene in “Coming to America” when she revealed to her granddaughter; Angela, that she had always longed to wear a wedding dress.
Angela was quite surprised to hear this, “I never thought of my grandma’s dream of wearing a wedding dress because I didn’t even know it was a dream they were denied. Women like my grandmother sacrificed so much for us to have the liberties we have now. For someone to be denied the simple opportunity of purchasing a dress of her choice really shone a light on the reality of our history.”
Secretly, Angela decided she was going to make her grandmother’s dream come true, despite her grandfather; Martha’s husband was no more. The man had died of a heart attack many years ago.
On July 3, Angela, Martha and some family members went to a bridal shop in Hoover, Alabama, and selecting from an array of wedding gowns, Martha picked on a wedding dress, and put it on.
“When I first put on that dress, I was just so very excited!” Martha enthused. “It was like I was getting married all over again! When I saw myself in the mirror, I was shocked. I said to myself, ‘who is that?’ I can’t even explain the feeling I got seeing myself in the wedding dress.”
Martha now 94, got her lace white gown, complete with embroidered sleeves and instead of buttons, she got sequins. Walking down the store’s hallway like it was a wedding aisle with such pride and joy; her family members present couldn’t help but shed tears.
“Happy doesn’t really paint the picture of how this made me feel,” Angela said. “My grandma has always been a giver, so to be able to finally give her an experience so dear to her was priceless. Happy is an understatement.”
Nearly 70 years after her wedding, Martha finally lived her dream, but she couldn’t help but feel nostalgia for her late husband.
“I wish he was here to see me in the dress. When I got married, I promised myself I would wear a wedding dress one day, and at least I finally did.”
Amidst her happiness, Angela couldn’t help but ponder on the simple pleasures black women were denied in those times.
“My grandma is a living, surviving citizen that went through segregation, fighting for equality, not just for Black Americans but for women, and she’s still alive,” she said. “We take for granted the basic things we do now without paying homage to those whose shoulders we stand on, even though we as Black people continue to fight for equality.”
Racheal Niza-Val is a Nigerian writer and author. She seeks to use her pen to do only three things. Entertain, Educate, and Enthrall.