Written by Azizi Powell [revised June 2, 2013]
The tradition of jumping the broom was known to African Americans before the bestselling novel & 1977 television mega hit Roots. But post-Roots and I believe largely because of its inclusion in that television mini-series, more African Americans have incorporated the custom of jumping the broom into their wedding reception, or their wedding ceremony than ever before. And many African Americans think that "jumping the broom" was either created by Black folks during United States slavery or was an traditional African custom. Some people who hold that belief, only Black folks then and now jumped the broom. Judging from online comments on various blogs & YouTube videos of jumping the broom, this view also appears to be held by a number of non-African Americans.
Between 2008 and 2011 there were three African American films that focused on the custom of “jumping the broom”. Those films anD their move trailers are:
Noah's Arc: Jumping The Broom (2008)
Jump The Broom: A Musical (2009)
Jumping The Broom (2011)
The latter film is by far the most popular and the most widely known of these three movies.
In a scene from the Noah’s Arc movie, one of the men getting married gives this explanation of the custom of jumping the broom:
“What’s the deal with this whole broom thing?”
“When our ancestors were slaves, they weren’t allowed to marry legally. So they created this ritual to symbolize marriage. It’s a way for us to honor our history.”
I admit that I was among those who believed that the custom of jumping the broom was either created by enslaved African Americans or was a tradition wedding custom in West Africa or Central Africa where most African Americans came from.
When it is part of the wedding ceremony, the newly married couple jumps the broom after the minister pronounces them husband & wife, and after they kiss. When it is part of the wedding reception, jumping the broom usually occurs before the newlyweds take their first dance.
In the few weddings that I've attended where African Americans jumped the broom, it was done as part of their wedding reception, prior to the newly married couple's first dance. However, most YouTube videos of this custom show African Americans incorporating jumping the broom as part of the actual wedding ceremony.
Although some African Americans "jump the broom" at the conclusion of their wedding ceremony or at their wedding reception, not all African Americans include this custom in their wedding. One reason that some African Americans may not "jump the broom" is because that custom is associated with slavery and/or "jumping the broom" is considered "lower class". It's interesting to note that two of the three above Black movies about jumping the broom Noah's Arc and Jumping The Broom, the wedding was held in the upscale community of Martha's Vineyard and both these movies touched on the issue that some Black people had with jumping the broom being a lower class remmant of slavery.
There's no question that sometimes during United States slavery Black couples jumped the broom to symbolize that they were married. But I don't think that custom came from Africa.
According to the folkloric research cited as references in Jumping The Broom,there are no recorded instances of West African or Central African weddings that involved jumping over a broom. In contrast, that same Wikipedia page notes that there’s considerable folkloric documentation that the custom of jumping the broom has been practiced for centuries in Wales and in England.
A traditional belief of the Congolese people of Central Africa is that there is a line (called the Kalunga line) which separates the world of humans and the world of ancestors, spirits, God and gods. It’s possible that some enslaved Black people might have remembered this belief. It’s also possible that those same enslaved people could have grafted that belief onto the act of newlywed couples jumping over a broom stick lying on the ground-that movement symbolizing moving from being single to being married. But I think that it’s probably more likely that White people introduced the custom of jumping the broom among enslaved Black people as a substitution for more formal marriage rituals whose use was denied to Black people.
In a nation such as the United States where the folkloric traditions of various racial and ethnic groups are often appropriated, merged, and significantly modified, the fact that African Americans may have claimed a Western European custom as our own shouldn’t be all that surprising. Borrowing customs across racial and ethnic lines is a universal practice. The fact that the custom of jumping the broom might have originated in Europe, and may have been either voluntarily borrowed from White folks by enslaved African Americans or forced upon us by White slave masters need not minimize the symbolic meanings of that custom that has been given to it by African Americans in the past and in the present.
FEATURED VIDEOS OF PEOPLE JUMPING THE BROOM
Here are four videos of the jumping the broom. Each of these videos are examples of how "jumping the broom" has been integrated into some wedding receptions or wedding ceremonies. These videos aren't meant to serve as a template of what should happen during ceremonies or receptions.
These videos are given in no particular order. The first three videos are of an African American weddings, and the fourth video is an non-African American wedding service.
Video #1: Kiss the Bride and Jump the Broom
Uploaded by brownsoc on Aug 28, 2009
Jason and Jorvanna on their wedding day. He's about to salute the bride but first things first
Video #2: Wedding Reception and Jump the Broom, Union Plaza Las Vegas, Nv.
Uploaded by oscarandbernie on Nov 21, 2009
Academy Award Video Productions shot this unique celebration at the Union Plaza in 1995. This was a musical and visual presentation of the old custom of 'jumping over the broom' a new life begining together. The performance includes the Bride and Groom and is emotional as is beautiful to see. See more of Oscar's video work at Oscar and Bernie Dotcom on TV/Web Productions Page.
Video #3: Darran & Venus Jumping The Broom
Stacey1Venus, Uploaded on Jul 4, 2011
An African-American traditional wedding ceremony in which the bride and groom signify their entrance into a new life and their creation of a new family by symbolically "sweeping away" their former single lives, former problems and concerns, and over the broom to enter upon a new adventure as husband and wife...
Stacey1Venus: Darran Stacey Johnson & Venus Bivins
Video #4: Nicky and Tim jump the broom
Uploaded by SaintMitch on Oct 1, 2006
Nicky and Tim got married in Cenac, France on 16th September 2006. The ceremony culminated in them jumping over a broom to symbolise their leap into domestic bliss together!
ADDED VIDEO [6/2/2013]
Ben L'Oncle Soul - Elle me dit (clip officiel)
Universal Music France, Uploaded on Jul 18, 2011
Hat tip to Afro-Europe for alerting me to this video.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/06/ben-loncle-soul-elle-me-dit-she-told-me.html for a pancocojams post of "Elle Me Dit" which includes an English translation to this song & information about Ben L"Oncle Soul.
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