The blind man who broke racist colonial rules on marriage

Sunday November 17 2019

John Kimuyu and Ruth Holloway in an undated photo.


January 1959. As the turbulent Emergency period declared by British colonialists to crush the Mau Mau independence movement entered a brutal seventh year, two unlikely lovers were initiating a rebellion of their own, which would attract international attention.

He was a blind black man, and she was a white missionary who was once his teacher – and they had decided to get married, resisting a tide of opposition.

In the manner of a Shakespearean romance plot laden with the unexpected, John Kimuyu, then 26, and Ruth Holloway, 35, fell in love in 1955 and got married four years later, even as white settlers proclaiming colonial racial segregation made desperate attempts to stop them.

It was a union ahead of its time, becoming the first recorded legal marriage between an African man and a white woman in colonial-era Kenya and breaking seemingly intractable racial barriers.

Interracial marriages have always been viewed with some reservation, even today. The hard-line stance was even more pronounced among Kenya’s white settlers, who were in no mood to allow one of their own to marry a black man. Four years earlier, they had deported Mr G. Dixon, an Englishman serving in the Kenya Police, after he got engaged to a Kikuyu woman. But Kimuyu and Holloway proved to be pluckier opponents.

Read the full story here.