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

By Frances Smith Foster | Go to book overview

SEVEN
ALCHEMY OF PERSONAL
POLITICS

There is a mystery in matrimony, which none can read but the initiated.

—Daniel Payne, “Matrimony” (Repository of Religion and
Literature and Science and Art, 1859)

Marriage is like the sphinx—a conspicuous and recognizable monu…
ment on the landscape, full of secrets.

—Nancy F. Cott, Public Vows (2000)

FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MARRIAGE, THEN comes Mama with the baby carriage. Children learn very early the trinity of adulthood and the right sequence for achieving the American Dream. However, as they mature, children start to realize that what they call love and who they think are potential mates often clash with what their families and communities declare. They discover that the sequence is often altered or incomplete. And, eventually they understand, even if they object or protest, that their definitions of love and marriage are not, and have not been, universally accepted.

Nineteenth-century theologian Daniel Payne speaks for some who an understanding of marriage is generally different for those who marry

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