Title: Oral History Interview with Margaret Edwards, January 20, 2002. Interview R-0157.
Interviewer: Copeland, Barbara
Interviewee: Edwards, Margaret
Abstract: Margaret Edwards was born into a large sharecropping family in Ayden, North Carolina, in 1950. Edwards begins the interview with some brief explanations of her family's tasks as sharecroppers and her experiences with segregation and racism in Ayden. Edwards explains that religion and church were central to both her family and the community. She grew up Baptist but converted to the Pentecostal Holiness Church after becoming an adult and marrying at the age of nineteen. By the 1990s, Edwards had become disillusioned with Pentecostalism, primarily because after seeking counsel from her pastor as a victim of domestic abuse, she was advised to stay with her husband because she had taken a vow to do so. In 1998, Edwards converted to Mormonism, and the majority of the interview is devoted to a discussion of her thoughts on the Mormon church and her role within it as an African American woman. Edwards explains that she found Mormonism appealing because the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (the formal name of the Mormon church) was accepting of her, and she appreciated the centrality of family to their doctrines. Edwards speaks at some length about her desire to eventually remarry (having since divorced her abusive husband). When asked if it was important for her to marry an African American man, Edwards explains that while she would find it most ideal to marry a man who was both African American and Mormon, her faith trumped her racial preference. She explains that the Mormon church shared her belief that interracial marriage between two Mormons was preferable to interdenominational marriage between people of the same race. Edwards addresses gender hierarchies within the Mormon church, arguing that although she had enjoyed a more active role she was able to play in the Pentecostal Holiness Church as an ordained minister, she did not begrudge the limited role of women in the Mormon church and did not view it as an encroachment on her independence. In addition to charting such intersections of race, gender, and religion in the Mormon church, Edwards discusses tensions she had experienced between the Mormons and other Judeo-Christian religions throughout the South. While her children did not share her Mormon faith, they were ultimately accepting of her choice. Others, however, were less tolerant, and she describes various ways in which other churches and faiths found themselves at odds with the rapidly growing Mormon presence in the South.