Addy's Wedding Quilt

Short story collection published in 2006; author Connie Porter; illustrator Gabriela Dellosso, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, Dahl Taylor, John Thompson, and Jane Varda


Mr. and Mrs. Walker married twenty years ago in a simple "jumping the broom" wedding, but being slaves, their marriage wasn't legally recognized. Now free, they're going to have another wedding, with a ceremony and a celebration and an official marriage license. Addy doesn't have enough money to buy them a wedding gift, but she does have access to fabric scraps, left over from her mother's dressmaking work. M'dear keeps Addy company while she quilts the fabric, and offers advice (before M'dear went blind, she'd sewn some scrap quilts). Her teacher, Miss Dunn, also helps by writing her parents' names and wedding date (January 28, 1866) in fancy script on some fabric and teaching Addy how to embroider over the words. Harriet sees what's going on, and at first the girls laugh together about the idea of marrying the immature boys in their class. Then Harriet makes some hurtful comments about Addy's parents' wedding twenty years ago being meaningless and heavily implies that their living together and having children since then is scandalous. She disparages the jumping the broom tradition, saying it's a ridiculous slave notion that should be gone now that slavery is outlawed. Addy defends her parents, but wonders why they're having another wedding if the first one also counted. Addy's mother reassures her that there's nothing to be ashamed of; she and her father simply want to have the wedding they couldn't in slavery, with all the vows (see below) and jumping the broom.

Addy works on her quilt during recess, and decides to applique a broom onto it. Harriet makes some more snide comments, but after the discussion with her mother, Addy knows how to handle it. She tells Harriet that she's welcome to have her own opinions, and she can keep them to herself. The broom tradition is important to Addy's parents, and they will appreciate its inclusion on the quilt. Miss Dunn agrees, adding that while slavery is no longer, they don't have to completely ignore it, and it would actually be unwise to do so.

The wedding is a simple ceremony with a small party after, but it's all beautiful and meaningful. Addy realizes that she's completely happy even though Uncle Solomon and Auntie Lula aren't there to see it, because they were able to enjoy her parents' first wedding. Her parents are amazed and touched by the quilt, and Addy decides she'll add one more applique: a church, so that both weddings will be represented on the quilt.

Looking Back

Although marriage was illegal in the South during slavery, many couple still referred to themselves as husband and wife. They have their own customs (like jumping over a broomstick together) to signify their union. Many slave owners turned a blind eye to the illegitimate marriages, believing that strong family ties would make the slaves happier and less likely to try to escape. Some slave owners even helped, organizing celebrations and bringing in white ministers to perform to the ceremonies. However, the vows didn't include the standard "til death do us part" because slaves couldn't guarantee that they wouldn't be separated by their owners. After slavery was over, many couples renewed their vows and got marriage licenses, happy that their unions were officially recognized.


My short story collection once belonged to an Amanda C., who signed her name on August 29, 2006.

Some of the fabric Addy uses in the quilt is from a shirt of Uncle Solomon's.

Personally, I consider myself married because of the rites performed in the religious ceremony (we had a nuptial mass in a Catholic church seven and a half years ago) and the piece of paper the marriage license is on to be redundant--I care that I'm married in the eyes of my church, not in the eyes of the government. However, I was never told I couldn't get that piece of paper if I wanted to, and have never been treated as property like slaves were, so I'm not really comparing apples to apples here.


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