Free to Marry

For for black people just emerged from slavery, the freedom to get legally married was an essential part of their emancipation. Former slaves took full advantage of this freedom. Couples who had been married in fact, if not in law, hastily solemnized their unions after the Civil War, and couples marrying for the first time were proud to take on all the trappings of Victorian marriage.

In 1866, Harper's Weekly published an illustration of a marriage between a black soldier and his fiancee. Note the white dresses of the bride and her attendants and the bride's demure expression.

 Marriage of a colored soldier at Vicksburg by Chaplain Warren of the Freedmen's Bureau from Harper's Weekly, June 30, 1866. Public domain from the  Library of Congress .

Marriage of a colored soldier at Vicksburg by Chaplain Warren of the Freedmen's Bureau from Harper's Weekly, June 30, 1866. Public domain from the Library of Congress.