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

ISBN : 9780195328523

Frances Smith Foster
224 Pages
146 x 217 mm
Pub date
Feb 2010
Send mail

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.


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 Right

About the author: 

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

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.