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Virginia McLaurin, the Centenarian Who Danced with the Obamas During Black History Month Celebration, Dies at 113

Family members of an African-American socialite, who has witnessed 19 U.S. presidents hold office, took to social media to announce her transition. One of the presidents that she was able to meet was the first Black man to hold the office, a phenomenon a grandchild of a slave and former sharecropper thought she’d never see.

Virginia McLaurin Obamas
106-year-old Virginia McLaurin dances with the Obamas in the White House. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

News of the Monday, Nov. 14 death of 113-year-old Ms. Virginia McLaurin was shared on Facebook. Her caretakers said she was under hospice care for a couple of days before her demise.

Her local council member, Janeese Lewis George, offered words to the family, saying, “My deepest condolences to Ms. Virginia’s family and loved ones. She led such an incredible, impactful life. We were deeply honored to have her as a beloved member of our Ward 4 community,” ABC 7 reports.

Many people outside of Chocolate City came to know McLaurin when she went to visit President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama in the White House in 2016.

The White House invited her to meet the president because of her “short oral history interviews.” People shared her videos about growing up as a sharecropper and moving to D.C. during the Great Migration.

At the time of the visit, McLaurin said she could finally die happy because she met the Obamas.

“I thought I would never live to get in the White House. And I tell you, I am so happy,” she said according to the Obama White House Archives. “A Black president! A Black wife! And I’m here to celebrate Black history. Yeah, that’s what I’m here for.” 

She told The Associated Press that when she saw them face to face, she was so happy, she “started dancing.”

According to sources, her life was changed after the visit with the then-first family.

In her own way, she became a national treasure, being invited, according to a GoFundMe page, to visit “schools, sports games, museums, the theater, and other special events to celebrate her long life of dedication to her community.”

As a way to pay tribute to her legacy, family and friends have set up the page with the intention of hosting a memorial service, with her son Felipe Cardoso coordinating the arrangements.

The page was actually set up when McLaurin went into hospice. The goal set was $40,000, and in less than five days, funds had reached $7,000.

McLaurin was a devout servant leader, selflessly helping others whenever she could. She was a Senior Corps volunteer at Roots Public Charter School as part of the United Planning Organization’s Foster Grandparent Program. She also served as a foster grandparent and mentor to special-needs students. She helped children with their reading and social skills. 

Relatives revealed, “she spent decades volunteering 40 hours a week at schools after she retired.” Without pay, she rendered her time for 20 years (post-retirement) at the C. Melvin Sharpe Health School, working just as many hours as the salaried staff.

Born in 1909 in Cheraw, South Carolina, McLaurin moved to DC in 1939, when Franklin Roosevelt was the Commander in Chief.

A walking library, her memory was sharp, recalling rich (and sometimes painful) periods of American culture. “She had an extraordinary memory,” the post stated. She often told, “stories of family’s life as sharecroppers in South Carolina before traveling north in the Great Migration.”

At over 100 years old, she not only volunteered as a UPO foster grandparent, but she also started fighting for tenants’ rights — pushing for a better quality of life for renters with bad landlords.

The social media post described her life’s journey as “incredibly full,” noting she “appreciated all the love she received from people on this FB page and everywhere she went,” up until the pandemic limited the amount of access to the public she had.

To learn more about McLaurin’s life, the family is maintaining social media pages in her honor, including a Tumblr page that has pictures and videos, documenting over a century of her most precious memories.

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