Martha Tucker always dreamed of a beautiful fairytale wedding, with a big white wedding... especially the gorgeous white wedding dress. However, when she got married in 1952, she was barred from entering a bridal shop for one reason - her race.
As a black woman in Birmingham, Alabama, she was forbidden from trying on her dream dress: an embroidered white gown with a lace overlay and long sleeves. Simple but elegant.
However, at the time, she "wasn't even thinking about buying a wedding dress because she knew she couldn't go in the store."
There were no Black-owned bridal stores in the city, the now ninety-four-year-old explained, and white-owned stores didn't allow Black people to try on clothing. "If you bought anything you had to go in the basement and get used stuff," Tucker said to the Washington Post.
This was seen as the Jim Crow laws, which prohibited all Black people from menial tasks such as being served in the same restaurant or riding in the same vehicle as White people. Black people were also barred from playing games such as checkers with White people.
This is 94-year-old Martha Mae Ophelia Moon Tucker's first wedding dress. She married in 1952, a time when Black women weren't allowed in bridal shops. It was her dream to wear one, so her granddaughters got her a dress fitting! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/PpgzGwCTqa
— Pee-wee Herman (@peeweeherman) July 13, 2021
Tucker and her husband wed in a simple ceremony in their pastor's living room. She did not have a wedding dress, and it remained a sore subject for decades: "I've always have been sad about it because I felt like I should have been able to wear it if I wanted to."
However, in a wonderful turn of events, Tucker finally got to wear her dream wedding dress when her family surprised her with a trip to a bridal shop for a long-overdue dress fitting, nearly seventy years on from her wedding day.
The idea came from her granddaughter, Angela Strozier, when they were watching the 1988 classic film, "Coming to America." During a wedding scene, Tucker turned to her granddaughter and said: "I've always wanted to wear a wedding dress. I've been wanting to do that for a long time, ever since I got married."
Strozier had heard many stories surrounding the dreadful racism her grandmother had endured, but until that very moment, that she realized that Tucker had never even tried a wedding dress on, simply because she was Black.
"It was a terrible reason why she couldn't," Strozier said. "It shocked me and motivated me to get it done."
Soon after the comment, Strozier booked an appointment at David's Bridal in Hoover for a gown fitting. She then invited several family members to surprise Tucker at the shop.
"I just wanted to do this for her," Strozier said. "I wanted her to understand that a dream deferred didn't have to be a dream denied."
She described her grandmother as "a giver," who dedicated her life to advocating for voting rights. Tucker became a poll worker in 1963, which was a duty she proudly upheld until after the 2020 election, which she decided would be her final voting season as she was now in her nineties.
"She is our hero," Strozier said. "Anything she expresses that she wants to do, we try to make it happen for her."
Shortly into the appointment, Tucker pointed to a particular gown on a mannequin and enthusiastically declared: "That dress has my name on it." When she emerged from the dressing room — wearing a V-neck sparkling sequin lace gown with sheer sleeves and a crystal-beaded waistband — "my dream had come true," Tucker said.
"She came out, and the tears began," Strozier recalled. "I thought she looked like a doll. She was smiling so big, and it made my heart smile. It was a priceless experience."
Still, she decided it was better late than never. "I always said before I left this world that I was going to get in a wedding dress," Tucker said. "And I'm glad I did."