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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Margaret Edwards, January 20, 2002. Interview R-0157. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Experiences with racism and segregation in Ayden, North Carolina

Edwards briefly discusses her experiences with racism and segregation while growing up in Ayden, North Carolina, during the 1950s and 1960s. According to Edwards, Ayden was a close-knit community where everyone, "even the white and black," knew one another. Nevertheless, she recalls having gone to segregated schools and experiencing segregation in other public places. Although she felt angry about this, she explains that she and her family never did anything to challenge the Jim Crow system.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Margaret Edwards, January 20, 2002. Interview R-0157. 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

BARBARA COPELAND:
Okay, did, how were the houses like the community. Was it everyone lived real close together or—
MARGARET EDWARDS:
We were kind spread out.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Or spread out. Was it the kind of closeness wherein you pretty much knew everyone that sort of thing?
MARGARET EDWARDS:
Right. Even the white and black. We all knew each other in the neighborhood.
BARBARA COPELAND:
What year, what year were you born because I was trying to see or trying to get a good understanding about the era wherein we had the sit-ins? You remember when we had the sit-in in Greensboro?
MARGARET EDWARDS:
Yeah. I barely remember. I was born in 1950. I remember some of it.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Because yeah, I was born in '60 so we're—
MARGARET EDWARDS:
So you probably don't remember.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Well, I wasn't born here in North Carolina. It wasn't until I got up some age that I stsarted learning about it through school. But wanted to know when you were coming up as a child did you experience racism—
MARGARET EDWARDS:
Yes.
BARBARA COPELAND:
In school?
MARGARET EDWARDS:
I went to an all-black school all my twelve years to an all black school, but I remember, I do remember some of the racism like at the cafeteria in the town. We had to go through the back. Yeah.
BARBARA COPELAND:
See that's what I was trying to—
MARGARET EDWARDS:
Then they had one counter in Ayden and places where I went to school at we had to stay outside, and they gave us our food through the window, and the white people were allowed to go inside and eat. We had to stay outside. I remember that.
BARBARA COPELAND:
And sit at the counter, they were able to sit at the counter.
MARGARET EDWARDS:
Right. Right.
BARBARA COPELAND:
See and so that's what I was trying to figure out if maybe you ever experienced any of that because I never experienced any of it. I guess maybe because I was born up North. I was born in New York and lived there up until I was twelve, and then that's when I came to Durham in Durham, North Carolina ever since. But I never experienced like the two separate bathrooms, one for colored, one for white.
MARGARET EDWARDS:
And fountains, yeah.
BARBARA COPELAND:
The two separate fountains. I never experienced any of that. All of the schools that I went to were mixed. We had all different races, and it was, I never got a sense that there was segregation of any sort nothing like that. I do remember, but of course this is way after I finished high school. Just here recently maybe I would say in the past ten years, maybe seven or ten years where they were, the school districts here in the Research Triangle area, Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill they wanted to do a redistricting of the subdivisions to make it so that it was an even distributions of blacks and whites in the county schools as well as in the city schools. Because I do remember when I was in high school in Durham that it was predominantly a predominantly black in the city schools and that there were more whites in the county. But it wasn't so cut and dried wherein you felt like this was a predominantly black school because we did have some whites, a good sizable population of whites who went to our schools. So I was just wondering if you experienced that and what those experiences were like for you.
MARGARET EDWARDS:
I mean it made me angry, but it wasn't much being a child there wasn't much I could do about it. Just go with the flow. We just had to, to keep safe we just had to go along with it. We weren't allowed to fight back. Our parents didn't want us to fight.