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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jessie Streater, November 10, 2001. Interview R-0165. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

African-American Mormon unbothered by past prohibition of priesthood for African Americans

Streater reacts to the Mormon Church's prohibition, prior to 1978, against black people holding a priesthood. She felt uncomfortable with this ban at first, but came to terms with it. She recalls that her brother in law was relieved when the ban was lifted.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jessie Streater, November 10, 2001. Interview R-0165. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

It's been told to me that prior to the year 1978 there was a ban on African American males gaining access to the priesthood. Did you know anything about that?
JESSIE STREATER:
Oh yes. It was still that way when we joined the church. I didn't, at first I felt kind of uncomfortable about it, but I thought about it. With segregation and all this other stuff if a black person was to hold a position like that, we thought that there would be trouble. Back in Joseph Smith days it would've been even worse with black people as they would say quote trying to be the head of something or in authority of something. So that's—
BARBARA COPELAND:
So what year was it then that you joined the Mormon church?
JESSIE STREATER:
'79.
BARBARA COPELAND:
In '79. So then this was only a year, a year after they had released that ban. Were there many African Americans in the Mormon church or in the church that you went to?
JESSIE STREATER:
Not in the one in Durham but the one in Wilmington had quite a few African Americans. When I came back here and we searched out the church, there was only I think one other family.
BARBARA COPELAND:
So back at the branch or the church in Wilmington where there were more African Americans how did most of the African American church members feel once they made the announcement and they released, that the ban was released and that now African American males could gain access to the priesthood? How did the African American members feel at that time? Were they scared? Were they nervous about that or did they talk about it any? What were some of those feelings?
JESSIE STREATER:
Well, I'm not sure exactly because of course we were just visiting there. But my brother in law he felt relieved that he could go higher in the church than where he was. He did feel good about being able to rise up higher.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Because actually what does having the priesthood, as a male having the priesthood, what does that mean for the family? What kind of benefits does it give for the family?
JESSIE STREATER:
Being a priesthood holder he can administer blessings and a comfort or sickness. He can do quite a few things—