Jumping the Broom

The setting is my bedroom. My informant is a close friend of mine that lives down the hall from me. This is the same informant as the Edgar Allen Poe entry.My informant is from Maryland, but grew up moving around the country.  “Jumping the broom” is a practice that comes up in African American culture. My informant says that this tradition is something that she heard from her mother, but it is also something that she has simply known about for most of her life.

I: Before African Americans could afford weddings slash their weddings were recognized by the government and they were slaves umm to constitute your marriage they would both jump over a broomstick together. “Jumping the broom” was the saying. And some people still do it for the traditional aspect of it. It is kind of passed down from generation to generation. And that’s a saying that comes up in black culture a lot because of that, jumping the broom

Rebecca: Do you know anyone that has done this?

I: My mom’s first cousin and his wife

Rebecca: Who told you about this?

I: I think my mom did but I honestly don’t remember because it comes up so much and I was around it a lot growing up

Rebecca: What does the story mean to you?
I: I think its just an interesting story and I think its cool that it has that cultural sentiment. The idea behind it is that you are “sweeping” away the old and bringing in the new, so like when people get married it is like a new beginning. Once the couple jumps over the broom, it is a transition or joining of the families.

A common theme among my collections is that my informants either heard the stories from their parents, or just assume that they did because they have always known about the story. This idea comes up a lot in African American culture according to my informant, so she hears about it a lot. My analysis of this wedding tradition relates to our class discussion. It seems to represent the liminal period between being married and single, and the broom acts like this division. Jumping over the broom together indicates that the couple is jumping out of the single life, and into their married life as a couple.

Annotation 1: Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations references a couple being married “over the broomstick.”

Citation: Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1942.

Annotation 2: “Jumping the Broom” is also a romantic comedy released in 2011 where two African American families come together for a wedding, which ends up being multiple weddings. The film actually does involve a physical broom that one bride gives to her friend as an apology at the end of the film. Both couples jump the broom after their wedding ceremony.