©A History of the African American People
Baby Blessings Classes DC Weddings Planning     Products Rev. Burns Wedding Brooms


Sealing the Sacred Bonds of Holy Matrimony
Freedmen's Bureau Marriage Records
By Reginald Washington

Slave Marriages

Slave marriages had neither legal standing nor protection from the abuses and restrictions imposed on them by slave-owners. Slave husbands and wives, without legal recourse, could be separated or sold at their master's will. Couples who resided on different plantations were allowed to visit only with the consent of their owners. Slaves often married without the benefit of clergy, and as historian John Blassingame states, "the marriage ceremony in most cases consisted of the slaves simply getting the master's permission and moving into a cabin together."

Benjamin and Sarah Manson's marriage, however, had been graced with a formal ceremony. Benjamin, who was brought to Tennessee from Virginia as a young boy by his then-owner, Nancy Manson, later described the event in a pension application he filed as the dependent of his deceased son John: "We were married on Dr. L. W. White's farm 5 miles from Lebanon [Tennessee]. . . . Rev Ben White [a black preacher] said the marriage ceremony." The "wedding ceremony," he continued, "took place on the porch of the owner of Sarah [Dr. White]. . . . It was with the knowledge and consent of my master [Mr. Joseph L. Manson, son of Nancy Manson] and Sarah's master that we were married." Shortly after their marriage, Sarah's owner purchased Benjamin. "He [Dr. White] had me for a number of years," Benjamin explained, "then Mr. Manson bought me back and owned me till I was emancipated."

©Antelebellum Illustrations, Virginia Education

Wedding Picture from the archives of "Antebellum Illustrations"

Formal marriage ceremonies for slave couples like Benjamin and Sarah were generally reserved for house servants. In such cases, slave-owners would have a white minister or a black plantation preacher perform the ceremony, and a large feast and dance in the "quarters" would follow honoring the slave couple. The ceremony could include the slave marriage ritual of "jumping the broom," which required slave couples to jump over a broomstick. The custom of jumping the broom could vary from plantation to plantation. On some farms, the slave bride and groom would place separate brooms on the floor in front of each other. The couple would then step across the brooms at the same time joining hands to signal that they were truly married. On other farms, each slave partner was required to jump backward over a broom held a foot from the ground. If either partner failed to clear the broom successfully, the other partner would be declared the one who would rule or boss the household. If both partners cleared the broom without touching it, then there would be no "bossin."

While historians and scholars differ on the origin, exact meaning, and the frequency of the "irregular" marriage ritual, most agree that the act of "jumping the broom" was a "binding force" in the slave couple's relationship and made them feel "more married."






Personal Interview with James V. Deane, Ex-slave

on Sept. 20, 1937, at his home, 1514 Druid Hill Ave., Baltimore.


"My name is James V. Deane, son of John and Jane Deane, born at Goose Bay in Charles County, May 20, 1850. My mother was the daughter of Vincent Harrison, I do not know about my father's people. I have two sisters both of whom are living, Sarah and Elizabeth Ford.

"I was born in a log cabin, a typical Charles County log cabin, at Goose Bay on the Potomac River. The plantation on which I was born fronted more than three miles on the river. The cabin had two rooms, one up and one down, very large with two windows, one in each room. There were no porches, over the door was a wide board to keep the rain and snow from beating over the top of the door, with a large log chimney on the outside, plastered between the logs, in which was a fireplace with an open grate to cook on and to put logs on the fire to heat.

"My choice food was fish and crabs cooked in all styles by mother. You have asked about gardens, yes, some slaves had small garden patches which they worked by moonlight.

"As for clothes, we all wore home-made clothes, the material woven on the looms in the clothes house. In the winter we had woolen clothes and in summer our clothes were made from cast-off clothes and Kentucky jeans. Our shoes were brogans with brass tips. On Sunday we fed the stock, after which we did what we wanted.

"I have seen many slave weddings, the master holding a broom handle, the groom jumping over it as a part of the©A History of the African American People wedding ceremony. When a slave married someone from another plantation, the master of the wife owned all the children. For the wedding the groom wore ordinary clothes, sometimes you could not tell the original outfit for the patches, and sometimes Kentucky jeans. The bride's trousseau, she would wear the cast-off clothes of the mistress, or, at other times the clothes made by other slaves.

"We went to the white Methodist church with slave gallery, only white preachers. We sang with the white people. The Methodists were christened and the Baptists were baptized. I have seen many colored funerals with no service. A graveyard on the place, only a wooden post to show where you were buried.

"No one was taught to read. We were taught the Lord's Prayer and catechism.

"When the slaves took sick Dr. Henry Mudd, the one who gave Booth first aid, was our doctor. The slaves had herbs of their own, and made their own salves. The only charms that were worn were made out of bones."


Journal Article Excerpt


Jumping the Broom: On the Origin and Meaning of an African American Wedding Custom

by Alan Dundes, University of California, Berkeley



In antebellum times, slaves were married either by an ordained minister or simply by a ceremony called

"jumping the broom" or "jumping the broomstick." There are dozens of reports of the latter.

Millie Evans, of North Carolina, born in 1849, explains: 

All Old Master's niggers was married by the white preacher, but he had a neighbor who would marry 
his niggers hisself. 
©SJB Minsitries LLC, Modern Artistian Broom made with the past in mind, Jumping the Broom, Slave marriages, slave wedding brooms, slave wedding history
He would say to the man:
"Do you want this woman?" and to the girl: "Do you want this boy?" 
Then he would call the Old Mistress to fetch the broom, and the Old Master would hold one end 
and Old Mistress the other and tell the boy and girl to jump the broom, and he would say: 
"That's your wife."
They called marrying like that jumping the broom. [ Botkin 1945 :65) 

Ex-slave Mary Reynolds (p16) offers a similar description: 

After while I was taken a notion to marry, and Massa and Missy marries us same as all the niggers. 
They stands inside the house with a broom held crosswise of the door, and we stands outside.  
Missy puts a li'l wreath on my head they kept there, and we steps over the broom into the the house.

Now, that's all they was to the marryin'. After freedom I gits married and has it put in the book by a preacher.



Plantation Life as Viewed by an Ex-Slave

JOHN F. VAN HOOK, Age 76, Newton Bridge Road, Athens, Georgia
Written by: Mrs. Sadie B. Hornsby, Area 6, Athens
Augusta, Ga., Dec. 1, 1938


"My father lived in Caswell County and he used to tell us how hard it was for him to get up in the morning after being out most of the night frolicking. He said their overseer couldn't talk plain, and would call them long before©SJB Minsitries LLC, Modern Artistian Broom made with the past in mind, Jumping the Broom, Slave marriages, slave wedding brooms, slave wedding history crack of dawn, and it sounded like he was saying, 'Ike and a bike, Ike and a bike.' What he meant was, 'Out and about! Out and about!'

"Marriage in those days was looked upon as something very solemn, and it was mighty seldom that anybody ever heard of a married couple trying to get separated. Now it's different. When a preacher married a couple, you didn't see any hard liquor around, but just a little light wine to liven up the wedding feast. If they were married by a justice of the peace, look out, there was plenty of wine and," here his voice was almost awe-stricken, "even whiskey too."

Laney interrupted at this stage of the story with, "My mother said they used to make up a new broom and when the couple jumped over it, they was married. Then they gave the broom to the couple to use keeping house." John was evidently embarrassed. "Laney," he said, "that was never confirmed. It was just hearsay, as far as you know, and I wouldn't tell things like that.

"The first colored man I ever heard preach was old man Johnny McDowell. He married Angeline Pennon and William Scruggs, uncle to Ollie Scruggs, who lives in Athens now. After the wedding they were all dancing around the yard having a big time and enjoying the wine and feast, and old man McDowell, sitting there watching them, looked real thoughtful and sad; suddenly he said: 'They don't behave like they knew what's been done here today.

Two people have been joined together for life. No matter what comes, or what happens, these two people must stand by each other, through everything, as long as they both shall live.' Never before had I had such thoughts at a wedding. They had always just been times for big eats, dancing, frolicking, and lots of jokes, and some of them pretty rough jokes, perhaps. What he said got me to thinking, and I have never been careless minded at a wedding since that day. Brother McDowell preached at Clarke's Chapel, about five miles south of Franklin, North Ca'lina, on the road leading from England to Georgia; that road ran right through the Van Hook place."

Again Laney interrupted her husband. "My mother said they even had infare dinners the next day after the wedding. The infare dinners were just for the families of the bride and groom, and the bride had a special dress for that occasion that she called her infare dress. The friends of both parties were there at the big feast on the wedding day, but not at the infare dinner."

"And there was no such a thing as child marriages heard of in those days," John was speaking again. "At least none of the brides were under 15 or 16 years old. Now you can read about child brides not more than 10 years old, 'most ever' time you pick up a paper.




Jumping the Broom

From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia


Origin ©SJB Minsitries LLC, Modern Artistian Broom made with the past in mind, Jumping the Broom, Slave marriages, slave wedding brooms, slave wedding history
The significance of the broom to early African-Americans originates in the present-day West African country of Ghana. During the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, most of Ghana in the 18th century was ruled by the Asante of Ashanti Confederacy. Asante urban areas and roads were kept conspicuously clean according to visiting British and Dutch traders with the use of domestically made brooms. These same brooms were used by wives or servants to clean the courtyards of palaces or homes. The broom in Asante and other Akan cultures also held spiritual value and symbolized sweeping away past wrongs or warding off evil spirits. This is where the broom comes into play regarding marriage. Brooms were waved over the heads of marrying couples to ward off spirits. The couple would often but not always jump over the broom at the end of the ceremony. Jumping over a broom as part of a wedding ceremony was also common in pre-Christian European cultures. The custom survived the introduction of Christianity and was practiced by both blacks and whites in the American South prior to the Civil War.
Jumping over the broom symbolized two things. The first was the wife's commitment or willingness to clean the courtyard of the new home she had joined. Furthermore, it expressed her overall commitment to the house. The second thing was the determination of who ran the household. Whoever jumped highest over the broom was the decision maker of the household (usually the man). The jumping of the broom does not constitute taking a "leap of faith" as the practice of jumping the broom pre-dates the phrase coined by Sřren Aabye Kierkegaard by one hundred years if not more.
 In America
The practice of jumping the broom was largely discarded in Ghana after the decline and eventual fall of the Ashanti Confederacy in 1897 and the imposition of British customs. The practice did however survive in the Americas, especially in the United States, among slaves brought from the Asante area. This particularly Akan practice of jumping the broom was picked up by other African ethnic groups in the Americas and used to solidify marriages during slavery among their communities. Jumping the broom therefore did not arise out of slavery as some have suggested, but is a part of African culture that survived the American slavery like the Voodun religion of the Fon and Ewe ethnic groups or the ring shout ceremony of the BaKongo and Mbundu ethnic groups.
After the end of American slavery, jumping the broom was seldom practiced. It was not necessary once African-Americans could have European-style marriages with rings and other identifiers. Jumping the broom was always done before witnesses in order for members of the slave community to know a couple was married. It had nothing to do with Whites since no form of marriage was recognized for Blacks during slavery. Once Blacks could have European style weddings with rings that were recognizable by anyone as a symbol of marriage, the broom ceremony wasn't required.
Jumping the broom also fell out of practice due to the stigma it carried, and in some cases still carries, among Black Americans wishing to forget the horrors of slavery. Once slavery had ended, many Blacks wanted nothing to do with anything associated with that era and discarded the broom jumping practice altogether. The practice did survive in some communities though, and made a resurgence after the launch of Alex Haley's "Roots".
Sometimes African American couples who do not actually jump a broom when they get married, may joke or recognize the phrase to be synonymous with getting married in the same way that "tying the knot" is associated with getting married.
Other Ethnic Groups
Broom jumping is also practiced by non-Black groups and different religions around the world with some variation. Wiccans and Roma are among the groups who developed their own style of a broom jumping tradition. The Welsh also had a centuries-old custom called priodas coes ysgub, or "broom-stick wedding."





©SJB Minsitries LLC, Jumping the Broom, Wedding Brooms, Jumping Brooms, Unity Candles, African American Weddings, Black Weddings, Maryland Wedding Ministers, Wedding Clergy, Marriage Officiant, Wedding Ceremony Officiants, Chapel of Love Ceremonies, Prince Georges County Wedding Officiant, Civil Wedding Ceremonies, Wedding Officiant, Wedding Clergy, Civil Marriages, Maryland Wedding Officiants, Prince Georges County, Marriages




SJB Ministries LLC

Reverend Starlene Joyner Burns  

 MD Wedding Minister and MD Wedding Officiant

4722 Morning Glory Trail

Bowie, Maryland 20720



Baby Blessings Brooms DC Weddings Planning  Shopping Rev. Burns



Prince Georges County Maryland, Civil Ceremonies, Valentine's Day Weddings, Civil Wedding Ceremonies, Secular Weddings, Civil Marriages, Eloping in Maryland, Elopements, Justice of the Peace in Maryland, Wedding Minister, Wedding Officiant, Quick Weddings, Small Weddings, Maryland Weddings, Courthouse Wedding Alternative, Prince George's County Marriage License




Member of several: 


Professional Organizations

for Wedding Ministers, Wedding Officiants

and Wedding Professionals


Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC Wedding Ministers 

and Wedding Officiants  Site





Baltimore Weddings

Maryland Weddings

Nondenominational Weddings

Virginia Weddings

Washington DC Weddings

Waterfront Weddings



Compiled by Reverend Starlene Joyner Burns

for the purpose of sharing the history of the wedding broom

and slave marriages in the USA.


The articles and images are the expressed copyright material of the authors

Kindly do not copy any thing from this page without permission.



©All Rights Reserved

SJB Ministries LLC


Created March 7, 2007