Slave Wedding Ceremonies
Jumping the Broom is a symbolic ceremony said to have originated in the 17th century in Western Africa. There are also vestiges of ‘broom-jumping’ in European cultures such as Celtics, the Welsh, Druids and Gypsies.
This practice can be symbolic of binding the wedding couple, but can also symbolize fertility and future prosperity of the couple by ‘sweeping away’ prior problems and the previous single life of the bride and groom.
Slave marriages between two black slaves in America during the historical slavery era did not have legal standing. Slave husbands and their wives had no legal recourse; they could be separated or sold separately at the will of their master. Slave couples who lived on different plantations could visit each other only with their masters’ permission. Many slave couples got the permission of their masters and simply moved in together. Informal wedding ceremonies (although not recognized legally) were common, and to affirm their African culture and their ‘roots’, jumping the broom became an important cultural part of wedding ceremonies that took place in slave camps and were witnessed by the slave community.
This is where oral history or family stories can add an extra dimension to your research. Ask an older family member whether they remember hearing any stories of this. You may be surprised at what you find out.
Many African-American couples are now including this tradition in their wedding ceremonies.