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Do you know what it means to “jump the broom”?


I know the weather’s almost too lovely to consider spending more than a moment indoors, but I have a feeling that you’ll be as excited as I am to visit the VHS this weekend for the premiere of a brand new family program. At 1:00 this Saturday, the Society will debut its first “Children’s Corner Book Chat,” a FREE meet-and-greet event with author Kelly Starling Lyons centered around her new title, Ellen’s Broom. Ms. Starling Lyons will read her book aloud to the audience, present a brief interactive program, and lead the children in a make-and-take craft activity. One of USA Today’s picks for Black History Month, Ellen’s Boom explores how the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery changed the lives of many African Americans.


"The Fifteenth Amendment, Celebrated May 19th 1870" by James Beard
(Virginia Historical Society, Acc. No.: 2003.435)

Before emancipation, enslaved men and women who could not legally marry would “jump the broom” as an outward show of their commitment to one another. During the Reconstruction era, newly freed slaves were afforded a series of rights, including the ability to have their unions officially registered. Ellen, the main character in the book, watches as her parents visit the courthouse to record their own marriage, and listens to their tales of the past. This is Ms. Starling Lyons’s third book for children, and she became inspired to write the title after researching her own family’s history. We’re very excited to have her here to share her insights and thoughts about this remarkable time in our nation’s history.


Detail from "The Fifteenth Amendment" by James Beard
(Virginia Historical Society, Acc. No.: 2003.435)

After you visit with Ms. Starling Lyons and have her sign your copy of Ellen’s Broom, you can visit our Story of Virginia to learn more about Reconstruction and the social changes in Virginia after the Civil War. In the “Becoming New Southerners” gallery an 1870 hand-colored lithograph by James Beard celebrates the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the new freedoms enjoyed by many emancipated African Americans. The sixteen vignettes show individuals enjoying those rights, including the right to vote, access to education, and, at the bottom of the lithograph, two couples celebrating their marriages in a legal church ceremony.

I hope you’ll stop by the VHS this weekend for the “Children’s Corner Book Chat.” The program is completely free, requires no advance registration, and is appropriate for all ages. If you’re looking for something to do on Saturday afternoon, please come join us for this exciting event!

Caroline Legros is the School Program Coordinator at the Virginia Historical Society.

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