Broomstick Wedding, Virginia (?), 1840s

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Image Reference

Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, The Story of My Life (Hartford, 1897), p. 257

Caption, "The Broomstick Wedding." Livermore writes that the bride and groom wore cast-off clothing once belonging to their master and mistress. The preacher was "Uncle Aaron," one of the best servants. The bride and groom stood in the center of the room, holding hands. Two other slaves held the broom below the couple's knees. The couple "jumped" into the married state (Livermore, p. 256). In her preface, Livermore indicates she had lived in Virginia for 3 years, "55 years ago." In her autobiography (Memories of Childhood's Slavery Days; Boston, 1909), the former plantation slave Annie L. Burton recalled that in her childhood during the Civil War, “If a slave man and woman wished to marry, a party would be arranged some Saturday night among the slaves. The marriage ceremony consisted of the pair jumping over a stick” (p. 5). "Jumping over a broomstick," wrote the historian Herbert Gutman, "served as the most common irregular slave marriage ritual . . . . it transformed a 'free' slave union into a legitimate slave marriage" (The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925 [New York, 1976], pp. 275-77, 282; cf. John W. Blassingame, The Slave Community [Oxford Univ. Press, 1979], pp. 165-67).