Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

April 11, 1936

On April 11, 1936, the Chicago Defender reported on the case of two Howard University student couples who had gotten married on a bet, but had trouble getting the marriages annulled. “The four well-known university students decided to marry while driving to Highland Beach, a summer resort on Chesapeake Bay,” the Defender noted. “John Robert Risher offered to bet William Grayer Williams, Jr., $10 that he would not marry Caroline Ellen Harris. Williams declared that he would marry Caroline if Risher would marry Doris Mae Carter” (click to view PDF).  

The students were from prominent black families in Washington D.C., and the successful annulment of the marriages in July also made news. The Baltimore Afro-American’s headline read “Society Couples Cut Knot,” while the Defender’s read “Freedom of ‘Bet’ Brides Is Assured.” The students were suspended from Howard University for one year because they violated a rule that prohibited students from marrying while they were in school. The society page in the Baltimore Afro-American noted that one of the students, William Grayer Williams, Jr., was married two years later to Dorothy Simmons in a more formal ceremony at St. Mary Rectory in Indian Head, Maryland.

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