Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
Jumping the broom is a marriage custom most closely associated with the period of American slavery. The exact origin, practice, and symbolism of the custom is subject to debate. Because African-American slaves were not "officially" allowed to marry, slave couples who wished to be married would ceremoniously jump over a broom in the presence of friends and family. Jumping the broom served as a declaration of intent within the African slave community.
Understanding marriage rituals and practices within a particular culture is important in genealogy, helping researchers gain a better sense not only of what records might -- or might not -- be available and where, but also to understand more of the historical context in which their ancestors lived.