'Til Death or Distance Do Us Part

'Til Death or Distance Do Us Part : Love and Marriage in African America

3.5 (10 ratings by Goodreads)
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Conventional wisdom says that marriage was rare or illegal for slaves and that if African Americans married at all, their vows were tenuous ones: "until death or distance do us part." It is believed that this history explains the dysfunction of the African American family to this day. In this groundbreaking book, Frances Smith Foster shows that this common wisdom is flawed as it is based upon partial evidence and it ignores the writings African Americans created for themselves. Rather than relying on documents produced for abolitionists, the state, or other biased parties, Foster draws upon a trove of little-examined alternative sources and in so doing offers a correction to this widely held but misinformed viewpoint. The works examined include family histories, folkloric stories, organizational records, personal memoirs, sermons and especially the fascinating and varied writings published in the Afro-Protestant Press of the times. She shows that "jumping the broom" was but one of many wedding rituals and that love, marriage and family were highly valued and central to early African American society. Her book offers a provocative new understanding of a powerful belief about African American history and sheds light on the roles of memory and myth, story and history in defining contemporary society and shaping the future.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 147.32 x 210.82 x 22.86mm | 385.55g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195328523
  • 9780195328523

Review quote

This is a challenging and important text. After deconstructing our national myths about marriage and our specific assumptions about African American marriage, Foster masterfully reconstructs the reality of marriage for enslaved black people. Rather than finding a fragile institution of transient attachments, she uncovers a legacy of love, struggle, and commitment. By choosing whom to love, how to love, and what to sacrifice, black Americans carved out space for their human selves. Their marriages contributed to decades of resistance against the dehumanizing effects of slavery. Although there is not a hint of sentimentalism, this book is truly an inspiring love story. * Melissa Harris-Lacewell, author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought *show more

About Frances Smith Foster

Frances Smith Foster is Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Women's Studies and Chair of the Department of English at Emory University.show more

Table of contents

1. Where Is the Love? ; 2. Whose Story Is It, Anyhow? ; 3. Who Giveth This Woman and Other Fallacies ; 4. Marriage is a Mystery of History ; 5. Taking Stock in Bondings ; 6. Under Matrimonial Obligations ; 7. Choosing Partners ; 8. Courting Customs ; 9. Until Death-Or Distance-Do Us Part ; 10. The Good Wife and the Happy Husband ; 11. Writing Things Rightshow more

Rating details

10 ratings
3.5 out of 5 stars
5 20% (2)
4 40% (4)
3 10% (1)
2 30% (3)
1 0% (0)
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