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Thu, 04.14.1921

Rosanell Eaton, Educator, and Public Policy Advocate born

Rosanell Eaton

*Rosanell Eaton was born on this date in 1921.  She was a Black teacher and voting rights activist. 

She was born on a farm outside Louisburg, North Carolina, a granddaughter of slaves and the youngest of seven children. After her father died when she was 2, Eaton’s mother became a sharecropper.  In the early years of her life, Eaton farmed for a living. She later worked at a packing plant before taking university classes to become an educator.  

When she was 21 years old, she became one of the first African American to vote in her county after completing a literacy test. She registered more than 4,000 citizens to vote in North Carolina.  Eaton was married and had two children.  She was a phonics teacher and a librarian assistant before retiring at 70, then taught as a substitute teacher and tutored children in her home into her 80s. Her husband, Golden Eaton, died in 1963. Their son James Eaton died in infancy. Their daughter Annie Montague died in 2000, and their son Jesse Eaton died in 2004.  

In 2015, President Obama, in his response to the New York Times cover story on "Efforts over the last 50 years to dismantle the protections in the Voting Rights Act of 1965", wrote that people like Rosanell Eaton inspired him.  She had also volunteered for years as a poll worker and was once asked why she devoted so much time to registering others to vote and ensuring she could cast her ballot. “I think,” she said, “it is because my fore parents or forefathers didn’t have the opportunity.”  

Rosanell Eaton died on December 8, 2018.  

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