Friday, May 31, 2013

Is jumping the broom a black American tradition?

African-Americans jump over a broom if they get married, at least that is my Afro-European perception. But is jumping the broom a black appropriation of a white custom?  Blogger Azizi Powell of the blog Pancocojams explains the tradition.

Since its inclusion in the bestselling novel and mega hit 1977 American television miniseries Roots, “jumping the broom” has become a part of many African American wedding ceremonies and wedding receptions. When jumping the broom is part of an African American wedding ceremony, it usually occurs at the minister's direction immediately after the groom kisses his bride. When it is part of the wedding reception, jumping the broom usually occurs before the newlyweds take their first dance.

Read the full story on Pancocojams

Azizi replied, "I should clarify that the tradition of jumping the broom was known to African Americans before the television mega hit Roots. Also, I didn't mean to imply that all African Americans incorporate "jumping the broom" in their wedding reception or their actual wedding ceremony.* That would be incorrect. But more African Americans have incorporated this custom since 1977 than ever before, and many African Americans think that "jumping the broom" is an African tradition."

An perhaps that is why French soul singer Ben L'Oncle Soul, in his song "Elle me dit", jumps over the broom.

9 Comments:

Azizi Powell said...

Greetings, Afro-Europe. And welcome back!

Thanks for sharing a link to my blog post about jumping the broom.

I should clarify that the tradition of jumping the broom was known to African Americans before the television mega hit Roots". Also, I didn't mean to imply that all African Americans incorporate "jumping the broom" in their wedding reception or their actual wedding ceremony.* That would be incorrect.

But more African Americans have incorporated this custom since 1977 than ever before, and many African Americans think that "jumping the broom" is an African tradition.

I don't think it is.

*It appears to me from my experiences & from watching YouTube videos that most African Americans who incorporate jumping the broom in their wedding usually do so at the wedding reception (which usually in a separate venue [relatively immediately] after the actual wedding ceremony.

Afro-Europe said...

You're welcome. Thanks for the correction. I've added a video of Ben L'Oncle Soul

Azizi Powell said...

I love that song & that video!! I'm going to add a link to that post with a hat tip to you & this blog.

I'm also going to showcase it on as a separate post on my pancocojams blog.

Btw, here's a link to English translations of that song:
http://lyricstranslate.com/en/elle-me-dit-she-told-me.html

Thanks again for introducing me to Ben l'oncle soul!!

Anonymous said...

I might be able to add something to this conversation. I am a historian whose mother is a black American and whose father is African, from Nigeria. My mother's family lived in the Deep South ever since they were brought here as slaves. I asked my grandparents, born in the early 1900s, about jumping the broom. They had not heard of it! It is not a widespread custom, nor was it ever common to all black Americans. I am sure, however, that SOME black Americans adopted the custom. My father, who is African (from Nigeria) never heard of jumping the broom, nor did I find that the ritual ever was practiced anywhere in Africa. In Europe, however, it was practiced - by white folks... There are many beautiful AFRICAN wedding traditions. When I got married, we made sure to incorporate some of them into our chicken-eating black American wedding:) But jumping the broom? Nah, not for me.

Afro-Europe said...

Thanks Anonymous

Anonymous said...

The concept of jumping broom was adopted by African slaves in the southern part of the United States. Most slave owners did not allow slaves to lawfully get marry so jumping the broom was adopted by slaves as a way of "getting married".

The Ghetto Intellectual™ said...

I'm an anthropologist and I teach African and African American studies in the southern USA (North Carolina) and I do research in Ghana, West Africa. "Jumping the broom" is absolutely an African-American tradition. Why? Because it was a cultural practice, adopted by enslaved Africans, passed down from generation to generation and widely documented in the antebellum south.

The second question is harder to answer. Was the practice carried over from western (West or Central) Africa? Probably not. I don't know any evidence for it. But I have read accounts of brooms in Indonesia, various parts of Africa, and Europe as ritual objects symbolically used to sweep away bad spirits. It is possible that the African-derived symbolic meaning of the broom was transformed on slave plantations.

In my view, jumping the broom is African because it was adopted by African people. One of many examples of creativity under horrific conditions. I, for one, believe that the practice is no less beautiful than anything done in Africa. Is Candomblé or Santería any less African because these Yoruba/Ifá derived religions incorporate Catholic Saints? Some African purists say yes, but many devotees say no. From the perspective of the devotees (or at least many devotees), there religions are African, but uniquely adapted to their context. kzs

Anonymous said...

I am black, proud and getting married next month. But we will not jump the broom in our all-black wedding. Why? BECAUSE JUMPING THE BROOM IS A SLAVE-RITUAL. The ritual did NOT originate in Africa, but was forced upon our African ancestors when they were brought as slaves to America, and had no other choice but adopt this custom for their weddings. I will not have a slave-ritual when I get married, and we will not give our kids slave-names. In our wedding, we will exchange cola-nuts (a REAL African custom) and we will enjoy the Four Elements (a modern African American custom). But to each their own, I guess.

Azizi Powell said...

Greeting, anonymous. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding.

With regard to your plans for your marriage ceremony, I gathered that exchanging cola nuts came from Nigerian [Yoruba] traditions, and I thought that "tasting the four elements" also came from those traditions.

Here's a link that I found that describes those marriage customs: http://www.worldlyweddings.com/african-traditions-a/121.htm.

Here's the quote about the four elements:
"In this Yoruba ritual, the bride and groom taste four flavors that represent different emotions within a relationship. The four flavors typically used are sour (lemon), bitter (vinegar), hot (cayenne), and sweet (honey). By tasting each of the flavors, the couple symbolically demonstrates that they will be able to get through the hard times in life, and, in the end, enjoy the sweetness of marriage."
-snip-

If this is what you are referring to, then it's a modern African American custom only because it is new to African Americans, but it actually is an ancient African [Yoruba people of Nigeria] custom.

I don't think that I would be wrong to say only a small percentage of African Americans who marry "jump the broom". However, more African Americans who marry incorporate jumping the broom into their marriage ceremony or their reception than incorporate exchanging kola nuts and/or tasting the four elements.

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