“Jumping The Broom” & Other Traditions: Marriages Amoung African Slaves

Posted: April 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


For some odd reason this girl has marriage on the brain, maybe it is because it is 4 days and counting until I marry the man of my dreams. So in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping and instead was mulling over the days work, homework not yet done, laundry piling up, and children’s activities and appointments coming up…. I got to thinking how I could not do all of this without him and how lucky I am to get to marry someone so supportive ( The mushy part is almost over, I promise. ). So as my mind usually does it jumps from A to C without stopping to really consider B, which is my fancy way of saying I put 2 and 2 together without the and. Marriage-African Americans Slaves!

**Please note: I will be using the word marry for both types of unions, but when done so quotes I mean an unrecognized union.

Generally slave marriages were not recognized, though their enslavers did wish them to partner up and procreate to create offspring that would become, for the enslavers new “property.”  However, if they had officially recognized marriages it would have been unseemly to sell one partner away from another. Traditions and customs varied greatly from plantation to plantation and farm to farm depending on the number of slaves owned and the gender mix at each.

Two slaves wishing to “marry” on the same plantation or farm, may or may not have to ask their Master’s permission, or they simply might have just moved in together. Slaves who “married” from different plantations or farms almost definitely had to have permission from both Master’s because they needed such to be allowed to visit one another.

In some cases, from the information I have found it seems this was a luxury reserved mainly for house slaves, the Masters would sanction an actual marriage union that was even presided over by either a White Minister or a Black Preacher. Some of these unions were considered grand affairs indeed, taking place on the front porch of the plantation’s “big house” and being followed by a celebration including food and dancing. This however was a rarity.marria1

The most common tradition for slave couples was not a religious ceremony, but one steeped in tradition, most likely originating in Africa. The tradition of “Jumping the Broom,” the basics of this tradition included the new couple clasping hands and together jumping over a broom which symbolized unity and their new life as one, and possibly domestic bliss ( hence the broom). Sources do vary widely on exactly how this ceremony was performed and mention that it was most likely was celebrated differently regionally in the States. Some of the stories hold that the couple should both jump the broom ( held several inches off the ground ) backwards, whichever of the pair that made the jump would rule the house. Others simply discussed the domestic bliss, and the tradition. Others mention it as the first possession of the new couple.

I know when I read about this, I was so sad! Their White enslavers were more than happy to use them as breeding stock but denied them the basic right to wed and live at least somewhat happily-ever-after! Everyone should be free to marry the person of their dreams!!!!

 Sadly on that issue our nation has not come nearly as far as we should have!

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  1. Have a wonderful wedding!


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