Virginia McLaurin, a Washington woman who was 106 when in 2016 she visited and danced with Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House, has died. She was 113 years old.
A family statement on McLaurin’s Facebook page said“It is with heavy hearts that we share the passing of Mrs. Virginia McLaurin this morning [Monday]. She had been hospitalized for a few days.
“She lived an incredibly full life and enjoyed all the love she received from people…everywhere she went. (Pre-pandemic, that is — in recent years, it’s largely stayed indoors.)”
When McLaurin started dancing, the then-president said, “She’s dancing! Go on! What is the secret to dancing at 106? »
Speaking to CTV after the visit, McLaurin said she told Barack Obama, “’It’s Black History Month and I’m here to represent black history.’ He said, ‘You made our day.’ I was happy. Lord, I’m still happy about it.
McLaurin also said she was usually too stiff to dance, but when she met the Obamas, “I was so happy I didn’t care.”
Her too told the Washington Post she wished she could “have 30 minutes alone with him,” adding, “Oh, you know how women think.
Writing about McLaurin’s visit to the Guardian, Syreeta McFadden said that for a black woman, the sight of McLaurin’s joy at meeting the first black president was extremely symbolic.
“For black women born in the early 20th century, when the nation suppressed the civil, social and economic freedoms of African Americans, when American society actively resisted the humanity of African Americans, to be alive and to witness this particular historic moment – McLaurin’s Dance of Joy is a hard-earned and won celebration My grandmother, like McLaurin, never expected to live to see the light of day.
McLaurin was 99 when Obama was elected in November 2008. In the Guardian, McFadden listed other historic moments in McLaurin’s life, from founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( NAACP) from the year he was born, 1909, through the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, when McLaurin was 54.
The family statement announcing McLaurin’s death said“She had an extraordinary memory, sharing stories of family life as sharecroppers in South Carolina before traveling north in the Great Migration.”
He also said that while McLaurin became “best known for her visit to the White House in 2016, she spent decades volunteering 40 hours a week in schools after her retirement.”
At age 104, in 2013, McLaurin was honored in Washington for her volunteer work with students with disabilities.
According to a fundraising page set up to cover funeral expenses, McLaurin also “volunteered as an adoptive grandparent and worked with other tenants in the fight for quality living conditions. [and] was a devoted member of his church.”
The page added: “We encourage you to seek out other Ms. McLaurins in your neighborhood. There are Elders in every community who give back to the community and could benefit from some support. They also have stories to tell.
“Ms. McLaurin came to the attention of the White House after she began recording short oral history interviews.”
In a statement Tuesday, Barack and Michelle Obama said“Rest in peace, Virginia. We know you’re up there dancing.