'JIST LAK...DE WHITE FOLKS': 'Jumping the Broom as a Case Study in Exploring the Intercultural and Atlantic Dimensions of Southern Society

Tyler Dunsdon Parry, University of South Carolina


This thesis triangulates ritual, memory, and Atlantic studies to argue that the popular custom of 'jumping the broom' has received minimal attention in the historiography of slavery, rural Europe, and the rural South. In using ritual theory, this thesis demonstrates that the function of the broomstick ceremony served as both a narrative of dominance and resistance, and by delving deeply into the worldviews of the populations that used it we can ascertain their methods of creative expression that subverted elite dominance. In a similar vein, elites deployed ritualization to distinguish their own status from populations who used this form of marriage. The use of memory reveals how cultures change and adapt to generational gaps. This thesis argues that detachment from the past causes recreation of rituals and ceremonies that hold meaning for reconnecting to the past, but these rituals are at times resurrected with dubious meanings intended to meet a certain need within the community. The Atlantic paradigm places the broomstick into a transnational lens, comparing the experiences of the African Americans, Celts, Gypsies and Anglo-Saxons that used it, and how all groups involved hold a shared cultural expression centralized around broomstick ceremonies that has not been articulated in past historiography.