In 1948 a momentous marriage took place between a black African chief and a white Englishwoman. This scandalised so many that it nearly caused the downfall of the Atlee Government, the break up of the Commonwealth and the British production of atomic bombs.
Friday 23rd May. A Momentous Marriage of Black and White
Dr Derek Hudson’s talk about the marriage between Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams made for a fascinating and timely story just as the “Windrush affair” broke of gross white racism and the heroic courage of two people in the face of it.
Established as a Crown Protectorate by Britain at the invitation of the Paramount Chief who feared a South African incursion into his country in 1885, Bechuanaland became the Republic of Botswana in 1966.
The relationship between Seretse and Ruth began when in 1947 Ruth accompanied her sister Muriel to a London Missionary Society Hospitality evening. There she met Seretse then studying in London. With a common interest in jazz they fell for each other, but when her parents were told they wished to marry she was thrown out of the family home.
Even the wedding had difficulties when the priest who had initially agreed, changed his mind and they had to resort to a Registry Office which saddened Ruth who was a committed Anglican. They went on to have a long and happy marriage and four children.
The British Government banned Seretse from returning to Botswana for five years because of South African objections and the fear they would block Britain from acquiring uranium for its nuclear deterrant, but on return he was elected Prime Minister, becoming President from 1966 until his death in 1980. He ran a progressive, liberal government marked by an absence of corruption and inter-tribal conflict making it unique in Africa. The discovery of diamonds in the sixties boosted the economy which soon was able to balance its books. Ruth devoted considerable time to charity work and was widely loved and respected until her death in 2002.
Based on careful research and 25years living in and working for the Government in Botswana, Derek was able to give us a really fascinating talk.