In legalizing ex-slave marriages, timing was crucial

“…In North Carolina the legal status of slave unions was among the first issues on the agenda of the 1865 constitutional convention. The final act declared all unions of ex-slaves who ‘now cohabit together in relation of husband and wife’ to be lawful marriages from ‘the time of commencement of such cohabitation.’

“As [Duke] historian Laura Edwards argues, the date of commencement was important: ‘If the date had been set at either emancipation or the ratification of the act, then all children born in slavery would have been illegitimate and their maintenance could have fallen to the state.’ ”

— From American Marriage: A Political Institution” by Priscilla Yamin (2012)