Jumping Over The Love
When I was working on one of my worksheet problems, the phrase “Jumping the Broom” drew my attention. We have been talking about slave marriages in the class, and my curiosity pushed me to dig deeper into this topic. For me, marriage is the most sacred and dignified experience of life. It represents stepping into a new stage of life, which is forming a family of your own, and starting a journey to explore more about the future with your loved ones. It is also a proof and attestation of the love and trust between the bride and the groom. People have praised pure love from time to time, and the union of the two is always celebrated with happiness and joy by walking through the ceremony together.
I see love as the best spiritual comfort and the safest bay where my weakness and frailness can be embraced and protected. It gives me courage and support when I get lost in the struggles in my life, and pushes me to move forward. Love plays an important role in my life; to love and to be loved is one of the most important sentiments that enriches my life and helps me to get through the challenges that life brings to me. Life without the right and opportunity to express all the emotions that I may have is incomplete. After learning about slavery in the class for the first time of my life, I felt so sad about the tragedies that happened on the Blacks. They were tortured both physically and mentally, and their right to embrace the best emotion of life was even deprived forcibly. However, one thing that caught my attention was that, even though they were banned from holding ceremonies and rituals to celebrate their love for each other, Blacks were still trying their best to make the most of every possibility they could have to prove their love for their loved ones. They were physically abused, mentally tortured, and dehumanized, but they always tried to humanize themselves and kept their beliefs and culture. Hence, I decided to learn more about the ritual “Jumping the Broom”, in order to feel the importance of love and marriage to African Americans during the time of slavery. I believe that, under the severe circumstance of being physically and mentally abused, love and marriage had brought African Americans courage and motivation to fight for their rights.
“Jumping the Broom” is a phrase that used to describe a ritual of the wedding ceremony that the bride and the groom jump over a broom. The wedding custom “Jumping the Broom” arose in the 1700s, while the vows of African Americans were not legally sanctioned (Veronica Braddy, 2015). Jumping over the broom is a symbol of a new beginning, which represents sweeping away the old and welcoming the new (Veronica Braddy, 2015). During slavery, blacks sought the legitimacy of marriage by jumping over the broom and into the bonds of domesticity (Veronica Braddy, 2015). The ceremony represents the joining of the two families, and gives strength to their unions.
During the 1700s, slaves were placed in a very complex circumstance. By the early 1700s, planters and slave owners realized that, promoting slave families could bring them profit economically (Jennifer Hallam, 2015). Promoting the slaves to form their own families could help the slaveholders to control their slaves better. “Marriage, they reasoned, would make slaves content and therefore docile” (Jennifer Hallam, 2015). However, couples were usually separated onto different plantations in order to achieve better management, and improve production efficiency (Professor Lashawnda Pittman, personal communication, 2015). Even though slaves were allowed to marry, there were still many restrictions that had interfered them to construct a permanent relationship. For instance, slave marriages were not granted legal support during the time. Black slaves were not allowed to marry in churches either because of the racial segregation held by the Whites.
African Americans were being suppressed in many forms during the time of slavery. Slavery has wiped out their opportunity to perform most of their traditions and customs. Wedding ceremony was one of those; it was illegal for them to perform any wedding ceremony or ritual. “Jumping the Broom” was one of the cultures that has survived slavery. According to African American Registry, the broom played a significant role to African-Americans heritage, and the history originated in Ghana in the West Africa (2015). By the time of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Asante of Ashanti Confederacy held the power and authority to rule most of Ghana in the 18th Century (African American Registry, 2015). “The Asante’s urban areas and roads were kept conspicuously clean according to visiting British and Dutch traders with the use of locally made brooms” (African American Registry, 2015). In the Asante and other Akan cultures, the broom also held spiritual value, and it was also a symbol, which represented sweeping away the past or removing evil spirits (African American Registry, 2015). Even though, the practice was largely discarded after Emancipation, and British custom has come into the America, “Jumping the Broom” survived and was picked up by other African ethnic group in the United States to strengthen marriages during slavery among their communities (African American Registry, 2015). The heritage of the ritual also shows the respect to their ancestors, and honors the struggles their ancestors have made to survive through the slavery.
I think performing wedding rituals were also a significant form of silent resistance. During the time of slavery, white oppressors never recognized the emotional needs and kinship ties of the slaves. Their mind was only driven by profit. Blacks were banned from practicing religious beliefs and performing wedding rituals in churches, and other basic rights were deprived as well. However, even though the whites had refused to grant legal supports to slave marriages, and had banned them from performing wedding rituals in the church, Black slaves insisted to prove their love and give their commitment to each other by performing the wedding ritual “Jumping the Broom”.
In class, I learnt a lot about the resistance of the slaves, and the difficulties they confronted to construct a long-last relationship between each other. These ideas and facts really helped me to inform my blog. They gave me a sense of how hard it was for African Americans to pursue their basic needs, both domestic and emotional. Even though they were highly oppressed and dehumanized by the Whites, they never gave up trying to form strong bonds between each other in order to survive together.
Braddy, V. (n.d.). Here’s our take on “Jumping the Broom”. In African American Roots, Inc.. Retrieved from http://www.african-weddings.com/jumping_the_broom
Hallam, J. (n.d.). Slavery and the Making of America. The Slave Experience: The Family. In PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/experience/family/history.html
“Jumping the Broom,” A Short History. (n.d.). In African American Registry. Retrieved from http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/jumping-broom-short-history