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Virginia McLaurin, a sharecropper’s daughter who danced with the Obamas, dies at 113

Virginia McLaurin in 2016 in Washington, D.C.
(The Washington Post/The Washington Post via Getty Im)
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Virginia McLaurin, the sharecropper’s daughter who danced excitedly with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during a 2016 White House visit to celebrate Black History Month, has died at 113.

McLaurin died early Monday at her home in Olney, Md., said her son, Felipe Cardoso Jr.

“Rest in peace, Virginia,” the Obamas wrote on Twitter. “We know you’re up there dancing.”

McLaurin visited the White House when she was 106.

“Hi!” McLaurin squealed as she was introduced to the president.

“You want to say hi to Michelle?” Obama asked.

“Yes!” McLaurin said, moving quickly to give the first lady a hug.

“Slow down now!” the president said. “Don’t go too quick.”

The women then held hands as they went into an impromptu dance, the president holding McLaurin’s arm.

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After three years of silence as Trump accused him of countless misdeeds and eviscerated his legacy, Obama finally came out swinging last week.

May 13, 2020

“I thought I would never live to get in the White House,” she said. “And I tell you, I am so happy.

“A Black president. A Black wife! And I’m here to celebrate Black history. Yeah, that’s what I’m here for.”

Video of the encounter quickly spread online, garnering international news coverage. After the brief meeting, McLaurin told reporters: “I could just die happy.”

Deborah Menkart, a friend who helped arrange McLaurin’s White House visit, said it dramatically changed her life. She said that McLaurin was living “very frugally” at the time but that her fame spurred people to donate to a care fund that had been set up for her.

“She got a new wig, she got new teeth, she was able to move to a better apartment,” Menkart said.

Later that year McLaurin appeared at a Washington Nationals baseball game and was presented with a team jersey on the field.

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McLaurin also used her sudden fame to help others.

Born March 12, 1909, in South Carolina without a birth certificate, McLaurin had been unable to get an ID card. Shortly after the White House visit, Menkart suggested they contact the mayor’s office and the Washington Post, which interviewed her and published a story.

Washington city officials soon issued her a temporary card and announced new regulations giving residents 70 and older more options to get IDs.

“It changed her life for not only herself, but also the clout she had,” Menkart said.

McLaurin spent decades upon retirement doing volunteer work at schools. According to the Obama White House archives, she was a foster grandparent and a mentor to special-needs students, helping children with reading and social skills.

“She was just so carefree,” Cardoso said. “She said her secret to life was not to worry, so she never let things worry her. She just didn’t pay it no mind.”

Cardoso said McLaurin adopted him when he was 3.

“She loved and cared for everybody,” he said. “She definitely had a big heart for the kids.”

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