Back in West Africa, especially due to the heat as well as space constraints, much of the cooking, washing of clothing, and gathering was done outside. Therefore for convenience, pest control, and safety issues, neighbors swept their yards with crude brooms made of twigs removing all grass, debris, and weeds from the areas surrounding their homes. Most of the cooking was done outdoors, if there were grass, then there was the possibility of a stray ash igniting the grass and starting a fire. Lawns were thought to be unnecessary and labor-intensive. In Africa, the natives were more concerned with growing crops than cutting grass.
Sweeping the Yards in Rural South Carolina.
With the advent of slavery in America, West African slaves brought the concept of swept yards to America. And as European settlers were preoccupied with growing crops and not grass, the swept yard concept survived for centuries in the American South.
The swept yard is mentioned in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird," where the Radley's had a "swept yard that was never swept."
When you were expecting company in the South, it was said that you baked cakes and swept the yard. Martha Ogle Forman wrote from Cecil County, Maryland in 1818, "preparing for company: made cake, and had all the yards swept."
In SC, Catherine Waiters swept her yard daily. The yard broom was made of tree branches, while the house broom on the left was made of broomstraw.