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Fri, 03.12.1909

Virginia McLaurin, Community Advocate, born

Virginia McLaurin

*Virginia McLaurin was born on this date in 1909. She was a Black seamstress, community volunteer, and supercentenarian.

McLaurin was born in Cheraw, South Carolina. McLaurin said she "was birthed by a midwife and the birthday put in a Bible somewhere." She worked in the fields, sharecropping with her parents as a child, shucking corn, and picking cotton. She grew up during the Jim Crow era when racial segregation was rampant throughout the South. Never received an education past third grade, McLaurin married at 13 and later moved to New Jersey as part of the Great Migration. Widowed when her husband was killed in a bar fight, she moved to Washington, D.C., to be closer to her sister in 1939.

Around this time, she took responsibility for a three-year-old boy after his father had remarried, and the new wife did not want to take on the child. McLaurin formally adopted the boy when he was aged 14. McLaurin spent decades upon retirement doing volunteer work at schools. She was a foster grandparent and a mentor to special-needs students, helping children with reading and social skills. She worked as a seamstress and domestic helper in Silver Spring, Maryland, and managed a laundry shop. McLaurin had volunteered forty hours per week at Roots Public Charter School since the early 1980s. She joined the United Planning Organization Foster Grandparent Program in October 1994. In 2013, McLaurin received a volunteer community service award from Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

A resident of Washington, D.C., she danced with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during an invited visit to the White House to be awarded a service medal on February 18, 2016, during Black History Month. She would later say in interviews that she never felt that she would ever live to visit the White House, and McLaurin never thought there would ever be a day she would get to meet a Black President with his Black wife while celebrating Black history. Shortly after she met with the Obamas, the video of her dancing with the two went viral online. On March 11, 2016, McLaurin received the President's Volunteer Service Award for her two decades of service to schoolchildren.

On May 27, 2016, she attended a Washington Nationals baseball game and received a custom jersey. As of 2016, she had two children with her late husband: a daughter and a son. While the daughter was alive at 87 years old, her son had since died. Despite this, she estimated she had about 50 living descendants. At least one of her grandchildren had a great-grandchild, making her a great-great-great-grandmother. On March 12, 2019, McLaurin turned 110 years old. She celebrated her previous birthdays from ages 106 to 109 with her favorite basketball team, the Harlem Globetrotters. Virginia McLaurin died at her home in Olney, Maryland, on November 14, 2022, at the age of 113.

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