Consider how much civil rights history 106-year-old Virginia McLaurin has witnessed.
The depths of violent segregation. The Harlem Renaissance. Integration of the U.S. military. The infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment. Jackie Robinson and the smashing of the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The rise of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
Brown v. Board of Education. The death of Emmett Till and the defiance of Rosa Parks on a bus. James Meredith, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and hundreds of other civil rights icons.
The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. James E. Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, killed while working to register black voters in Mississippi.
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Thurgood Marshall, the first black man on the U.S. Supreme Court. Carl Stokes of Cleveland, the first black mayor of a major U.S. city. Douglas Wilder and Deval Patrick, the nation’s only black governors. Colin Powell, the first African-American U.S. secretary of state.
Robert Lawrence Jr., the first black astronaut; Guion Bluford, the first black astronaut in space; Mae Jemison, the first black female astronaut; and Frederick Gregory, the first African-American shuttle commander. Sidney Poitier and Halle Berry, the first African-American man and woman to win Oscars for best actor and actress. Condoleezza Rice, the first black female U.S. secretary of state.
Now she meets the nation’s first black president, something she never imagined, and in Barack and Michelle Obama, she sees the product of individual sacrifices.
That’s why she’s dancing.
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Jim Mitchell is an editorial writer at the Dallas Morning News.