A documentary created and co-produced by Dr. Valerie Hill-Jackson will be screened at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on March 10th. Tiger Brides: Memories of Love and War from the G.I. Brides of Tiger Bay tells the story of women from Tiger Bay who fell in love with and married black American soldiers stationed in Cardiff, Wales during World War II and the Korean War.
Although British marriages to white G.I.s are well documented, the stories of black G.I.s and their marriages to black or multi-ethnic British women have been ignored. According to oral accounts, more than 70 British women emigrated from Tiger Bay to various states across America. One of those women was Patti Ann Ismail. She married Bowen Keiffer Jackson Sr., a Technician Fifth Grade soldier in the U.S. Army in April 1945. Ismail’s daughter-in-law is Dr. Hill-Jackson, clinical professor of culture, curriculum and critical teacher education at Texas A&M.
After hearing Ismail’s stories, Dr. Hill-Jackson applied for and won a Fulbright scholarship to spend months researching the Tiger Brides. She interviewed G.I. brides and their children, historians and anyone else who could help piece together these untold stories. According to the documentary, it is remarkable that any of the 70-plus Tiger Bay love stories ever developed. As well as being assigned to separate bases from their white fellow soldiers, Black G.I.s were banned, due to the U.S.’s Army segregationist policies, from visiting Tiger Bay. Eventually, the men found ways to dodge the military police so they could visit the women and begin their love stories.
At the end of both wars, the G.I.s went back to America. The Tiger Brides said goodbye to their families and traveled, sometimes alone, to their new home in America in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The Tiger Brides found themselves in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, and their welcome to America would be fraught with family and socio-cultural obstacles. Ismail became passionate about the Civil Rights Movement and joined her mother-in-law, Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson – the former President of the NAACP chapter of Baltimore and the mother of the Civil Rights Movement – in the fight for equal rights. However, many of the women returned to Tiger Bay, homesick, and still live there today.
“Today’s scholars must find multiple ways to share our work beyond articles read by the elite few,” explains Dr. Hill-Jackson. “I believe my work is important for two reasons. First, as someone who firmly believes in community engagement, our work must transcend the ivory towers and appeal to the masses in tangible ways. A documentary is a learning tool, which takes on new practicality for everyday communities. The Tiger Brides documentary, with its accompanying international curriculum for high school students in the U.S. and Great Britain, is a way to capture the attention of the 21st century visual learner. Second, I teach future teachers about the importance of infusing multiple perspectives into the curriculum. The research is clear that all students achieve when they see representations of themselves in the curriculum. Tomorrow’s teachers must creatively extend the packaged curricula of school districts and unveil the hidden histories of all Americans in order to produce rigorous and relevant instruction. I hope my co-learners, aspiring Aggie teachers, observe that the Tiger Brides documentary is my attempt to align my educational walk with my talk.”
With the Greatest Generation shrinking, Dr. Hill-Jackson hopes the Tiger Brides documentary will shine a light on their stories of war, romance, and the Civil Rights Movement alive.
The March 10th screening will be at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana at 6 p.m. Immediately following the screening, Dr. Hill-Jackson and Jeana Norman, one of the Tiger Brides featured in the documentary, will hold a Q&A session. The NWWII Museum is Louisiana’s number one tourist attraction and, according to TripAdvisor, voted the third best museum in the nation and the ninth best museum in the world. The screening is free and open to the public but a RSVP is required. To RSVP, visit: http://nw2m.convio.net/site/Calendar/534717601?view=Detail&id=120529