Actress Leslie Uggams and actor Grahame Pratt defied the odds when they had one of the few high-profile interaction relationships in the 1960s.
But despite all the side eyes and discriminatory comments, the couple stood together and have been together for 57 years.
The long love story of Uggams and Pratt started in Sydney, Australia. Pratt came to Uggams dressing room, but he had too many drinks, which did not stop him from inviting the actress for another round of drinks.
Uggams does not recall why she agreed to go out for drinks with Pratt and his friends, but she did, and after that night out, the two started seeing each other more.
Their relationship started progressing fast, and Uggams and Pratt fell in love; however, there were a few obstacles in the way of their union.
Firstly, Uggams was an American singer and actress; most of her shows and acting gigs were in America, and Pratt also had an acting career growing in Australia.
Even though Pratt was willing to move to America with Uggams, the actress still felt like she was in the way of his career.
Additionally, Uggams was worried about bringing home a white man because her mother already had expectations of her marrying a black man.
Furthermore, the “Roots” star knew she would have to continue working in show business, and she had already witnessed many relationships fail but did not want to be part of the statistics.
Therefore, the actress did not know if her interracial marriage would survive the public scrutiny. All these aspects were issues Uggams and Pratt had to deal with before taking the next step.
Eventually, the couple took the leap of faith, and Uggams brought Pratt to New York to meet her parents. The actress said she was nervous about his mother and father’s reaction, but Prat was a hit.
Uggams father said he couldn’t have asked for a better son-in-law and her mother took him as one of her own; she called him ‘my boy.’
Even the actress’s friends accepted Pratt, and he easily blended into the friendship group, which was a big relief for Uggams.
Eight months before the Australian actor and the “Roots” star tied the know, Pratt’s father died, and his mother, Marguerite, was left alone.
Marguerite was facing a complicated and lonely time in he life; her husband was gone, her two daughters were married, and her son was about to marry a woman from New York and settle there.
So Uggam’s mother, Juanita, could not bare the thought of an old-aged woman going through this turmoil alone. Thus Juanita invited Marguerite to visit her in New York.
Uggams recalled someone busting their hotel door down and asking why he was sharing a room with Pratt.
The stay turned into a three-month shopping spree and days filled with shows and movies. The two soon-to-be mothers-in-law built a strong friendship in a situation that looked pretty dark.
One of Uggams and Pratt’s hardest hardships was the loss of their child. The experience was terrible for the couple, but Uggams was still grateful to be able to try to have children again.
On top of the heartbreak of losing a child, Uggams said she would receive hate letters for marrying a white man when she was on tour.
Uggams said she and Pratt did not face much discrimination in New York and Los Angeles, but they did get a few nasty comments whenever they traveled.
The actress recalled a letter sent to her while she was on tour in Detriot; the letter said she and Pratt would have “polka-dot children” while calling them racially discriminating names.
Another incident was in 1968 when the couple attended Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral in the South. Uggams recalled someone busting their hotel door down and asking why he was sharing a room with Pratt.
Pratt told the person Uggams was his wife, but the actress was still in shock and disbelief at how blatantly racist some cities were.
Uggams and Pratt welcomed two children together, Danielle and son, Justice. And with all the criticism the actress faced for marrying a white man and the hate people had for her unborn children, she hoped her kids would live in a better world and experience the happiness she shared with her husband.
Uggams believed that she and Pratt withstood the harsh racist comments and experience because Pratt is an Australian white man.
The actress said Pratt had seen what it meant to be a white man in America and was aware of these hierarchical dynamics; therefore, he could adjust.
Additionally, Australia also has its own history of racism, and the actor understood how these histories affect society.
Pratt was Uggams manager for a long time, and the couple juggled parenthood with their busy lifestyle by taking their kids on tour.
Uggams was a devoted mother to her two children and said having them with her kept her grounded. Now Danielle, 52, and Justice, 47, are adults and have made their parents grandparents of Cassidy, an aspiring actress.