5 Women Who Jumped The Broom At Their Weddings Share What The Tradition Means To Them
For an occasion as intimate as one’s wedding day, it’s only natural to want to bring your entire self to the ceremony. For the African American community, one of the best ways to celebrate the journey of single life to marriage is through the tradition of jumping the broom.
Jumping the broom symbolizes the couple’s entrance into a new life of their own creation by symbolically “sweeping away” their former lives, issues, and concerns. According to the African American Registry, the significance of the broom is deeply rooted in African American heritage. Its history originates in the West African country of Ghana, which was ruled by the Asante or Ashanti confederacy, where everyday brooms were a symbol in spiritual life. “The broom in Asante and other Akan cultures also held spiritual value and symbolized sweeping away past wrongs or removing evil spirits,” the African American Registry details.
The tradition came to the Americas along with the Asante people during the slave trade, and played a role in solidifying partnerships during a time where enslaved people were forbidden from getting married. After slavery ended, and Black people were allowed to have traditional weddings, the tradition fell off until the 1970s, according to Insider, with the release of Alex Haley’s book turned mini-series Roots. (The plotline follows the journey of Kunta Kinte, a West African warrior sold into slavery, and shows him jumping the broom with his wife, Bell.) From then on, the custom has been considered a staple in wedding ceremonies by many to honor their ancestors.
Here's how it works: Once a couple has said their vows and kissed, before walking back down the aisle, they jump over the broom to leave their past behind and solidify their entrance into a safe, happy marriage. Today, the tradition is still regularly practiced by the Black community and has several references in pop culture, such as OutKast’s song “Call the Law” or the 2011 film named after the tradition.
While for some the custom is inherited from family members before them, others see it as their way of starting a new tradition to pass down through the ages. Bustle spoke to five Black women about what the special and sacred tradition means to them.
“Carvens, [my husband], and I married privately at the Brooklyn courthouse on Dec. 10, 2013 and on Jun. 26, 2014 we decided to have a public renewal of vows ceremony, where we would jump the broom and have an intimate reception. To be honest, the June wedding is when family and friends actually said congratulations to us and acknowledged we were married. Maybe it was the wedding dress and pictures or maybe because they were there to witness us jump the broom. I asked Carvens months before our public renewal of vows ceremony if there were any traditions he wanted us to do at our wedding. He said he would think about it. With all the wedding plans, we were overwhelmed; we were both 24 years old trying to figure it out. We had both rarely been to any weddings to have anything to compare it to or reference. Literally, a few days before the wedding Carvens suggested we jump the broom. We both had learned about ‘jumping the broom’ from Black history books. I loved it, I had never seen any of my family members jump the broom and neither had Carvens. Jumping the broom to us represented jumping into life together forever as one. We held hands and jumped at the same time. We were the first in our family to jump the broom. I was excited, butterflies in my stomach, I felt joy, I felt free, I felt Black, and I felt so loved feeling the warmth of my husband's hand on mine.”
“Jumping the broom was a way my husband, Robert, and I were able to honor our ancestors on our wedding day by keeping their heritage and traditions alive. It meant being the dream and the hope of the slave that poet Maya Angelou spoke about in her famous poem 'Still I Rise'. Jumping the broom was the warmest way to seal our marriage and jump into our new lives together.”
“We wanted to incorporate jumping the broom to signify our entrance into a new life together and the creation of a new family by symbolically sweeping away our former single lives, former problems, and concerns that we faced alone. With us hand in hand, we have jumped over into a new unity of adventures, bliss, and love.”
"Not too many people understood the significance of this when we shared that this is something that would be incorporated into our ceremony back in 2004. When I mentioned it to my now husband, he had no problem at all doing this. For both of us, it meant honoring a tradition, honoring our history, and remembering all of the couples before us. We still have the broom hung up in our home and I remember when our daughter asked what that was ... it was great sharing with her what the significance of ‘jumping the broom’ really meant."
“I knew I was going to jump the broom way before I even knew who my husband was going to be. It’s a distinctly African-American tradition and it made me feel connected to ancestors I may not know by name but are an extended part of our love story. Like we carry the love stories of so many of them but didn’t get a chance to live out. Fortunately my husband, Jerome, was into all of that and let me rock. I bought some supplies at Michael’s and made the broom that we jumped after our first ceremony in September. We’re having a real wedding-wedding in June and I’ll be making the broom for that too.”
The act of jumping the broom is a joyful tradition that sews the Black community together by a single thread. These women’s stories demonstrate how heartfelt the ceremony is for many and how it honors the rich history of the culture, but still looking towards the bright future that lies ahead.