“Roots” & “Empire” Actress, Leslie Uggams,’ Interracial Marriage Beat The Odds, Meet Her Family
Depending on which era you come from you either know the legendary actress, Leslie Uggams as “Kizzy Kinte,” the daughter of “Kunta Kinte” from “Roots” back in the day, or you know her as the “Empire” character, “Leah Walker,” “Lucious Lyon’s” bipolar Mother, who tried to kill him as a child. However, because I’m Old School, you’ll probably catch me referring to Leslie Uggams by both her real name and her”Roots” name, “Kizzy,” simply because I can’t help it…she PLAYED that “Kizzy” role and left a lasting impression on me for life. Okay I just digressed, moving on…
LESLIE REVEALS THE PLIGHT OF HER INTERRACIAL MARRIAGE AND THEIR KIDS
We want to share a few surprising fun facts about “Kizzy.” in particular her White husband, whom many were shocked that she married at the time, given that her character “Kizzy” was so adamant about being with a strong Black man in “Roots.” But some failed to realize that was just a movie and to Leslie Uggams, love has no color barrier.
Meet Grahame Pratt, he’s Australian and has been married to Leslie Uggams for 56 YEARS (since 1965)! That’s beautiful isn’t it? “Kizzy” talked in detail about the many obstacles they faced as an interracial couple during the days when for interracial marriages in the 60’s were still illegal in some parts of the country, and racial tensions were at an all time high.
Read snippets from her 1967 Ebony Magazine interview below…oh, and she used the word “negro” instead of African American or Black, because remember, that was the common term back then, so don’t trip, Mrs. Leslie no longer uses the term “negro” today.
LESLIE ON THE APPREHENSION FROM HER FAMILY ABOUT DATING WHITE MEN
Leslie Uggams: “I remember the shock I got once when I was dating a White boy. He sent me a color picture of himself. I showed it to my aunt. He was a good looking boy with beautiful hair. I though he was gorgeous. But my aunt to one look and started in to lecture me. ‘Well he’s alright, I suppose,” she told me, “but only for dates, huh, honey? When you’re thinking of settling down for keeps you’ll make sure you marry a nice Negro fella, won’t you?'”
Leslie also explained how she’d received much hate mail from fans after she ultimately married her Australian husband, Grahame. Grahame on the other hand, was not aware of how much racial hatred existed in the U.S. at that time because it wasn’t like that in his country.
So Leslie had him move to New York with her for a year prior to their marriage, so that he could understand and decide if he wanted to live that type of life with her in America, where many people often spewed negative comments toward them for being an interracial couple. Grahame decided that he loved Leslie way too much to allow other folks’ racial hate separate them.
HER FAMILY’S EVENTUAL EMBRACING OF WHITE HUSBAND
Leslie’s family eventually came around too and here’s what Leslie explained about that. “Kizzy’s” ’67 interview continued below:
“We got engaged for five months and then he came to New York to meet my folks and get a real sample of life for a White man in the States when the girl on your arm is a Negro. Knowing my family’s ideas about mixed marriages I wanted to know, too, whether they would really accept Grahame and not just tolerate him.”
“You can imagine how I felt when, after they got to know one another, my father told me he couldn’t hope for a better son-in-law. The thing about Grahame is that he’s a real Australian, a real man’s man. […] My mother dotes on him. she calls him ‘my boy.'”
“I found, too, that the very fact that Grahame ids and Australian meant he had none of the self-consciousness about the situation that a White America often has. He fit in easily with my friends, Negro and White, just because he liked them.”
Well they obviously have done something right in their marriage, because 56 years is NO joke! Props to them for holding it together for so long.
MEET LESLIE UGGAM’S & GRAHAME PRATT’S KIDS
Both of their children followed in their Mother’s footsteps and are actors.
Their daughter, Danielle Chambers is 50 years old and married.
Their son, Justice Pratt, is 45 years old and as far as we know, he isn’t married…
Before Justice and Danielle were born, Leslie Ugamms expressed in her Ebony Mag interview that she did not want to end up divorced like her sister Frances had done at that time, and leave her children with divorced parents:
“I don’t want that to happen to Grahame and me, I mean, I badly want children- we both do- but I want my children to have two parents to grow up with.” – Leslie Uggams, 1967
Mrs. Uggams’ dreams came true.