By Frances Smith Foster
Traditional knowledge tells us that marriage was once unlawful for African american citizens throughout the antebellum period, and that if humans married in any respect, their vows have been tenuous ones: ''until loss of life or distance do us part.'' it's an impact that imbues ideals approximately black households to today. yet it is a conception based mostly on files produced through abolitionists, the kingdom, or different partisans. It does not inform the total tale. Drawing on a trove of much less recognized resources together with kin histories, people tales, memoirs, sermons, and particularly the attention-grabbing writings from the Afro-Protestant Press,'Til dying or Distance Do Us half offers a significantly various viewpoint on antebellum love and family members existence. Frances Smith Foster applies the information she's constructed over a life of interpreting and pondering. Advocating either the efficiency of skepticism and the significance of story-telling, her booklet exhibits the way in which towards a extra actual, extra affirmative realizing of African American romance, either then and now.
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Additional info for 'Til Death or Distance Do Us Part: Love and Marriage in African America
When Ellen Craft died in 1891, the Crafts had been married about 50 years. Lunsford Lane and Martha Curtis were also owned by different people when they married in Raleigh, North Carolina. Lane writes, “So in May, 1828, I was bound as fast in wedlock as a slave can be. ”12 Lane’s narrative shows, however, that they were among the more fortunate enslaved couples. Lunsford Lane was able to purchase himself, his wife, and his children. Writing his narrative in 1845 as a free man married to a free woman, Lane assumes that the danger of involuntary separation is over, and, he believes they are now married for life.
Still, she had continued to live as his wife. With Malinda’s father’s help, the couple planned their escape. The plan failed; Henry was captured and taken to Louisville, Kentucky, as a slave. The intrepid husband escaped and went, again, to ﬁnd his wife and daughter. This time they left, but they were captured and sent to Louisiana. Bibb escaped again, and, again, he returned for his wife and daughter. All in all, he ran away six times, and he returned ﬁve times to rescue his wife. The last time Malinda and Henry actually saw one another was in Louisiana in 1840.
She had refused to submit when their daughter was taken as hostage. About that incident, Bibb wrote that the man had tied Malinda “and ﬂogged her until her garments were stained with blood” and then returned her to the jail. As did Harriet Jacobs in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Bibb suggests that the contest was not merely about sex. She could have been raped as readily as she had been beaten. This was a contest of will, a matter of psychological submission. And, again, the enslaved woman refused to consent.