Photo credit: Nikki Kahn/ Washington Post
At the age of 97, Rosanell Eaton, one of the first African Americans to vote in North Carolina since Reconstruction, has transitioned to be with the ancestors.
Eaton was 21 years old when she cast her first ballot in Franklin County, North Carolina after being forced to pass a literacy test and recite from memory the preamble to the Constitution. Since then, Eaton spent her life fighting to end voter suppression and registered over 4,000 people to vote in her home state of North Carolina.
Even in her 90's, "she agreed to be a lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging H.B. 589, a discriminatory North Carolina voting law backed by the state Republicans in 2013," reported ABC News.
Although the Supreme Court did not agree to revive the case, parts of the law were struck down and called unconstitutional by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
We’re saddened by the death of Mother RosaNell Eaton. Mrs. Eaton was the Matriarch of the Forward Together Moral Movement. Mother Eaton was the lead plaintiff in the Historic NC NAACP v McCrory Voting Rights Case. She fought tirelessly to protecting our precious right to vote. pic.twitter.com/WuvbSdxghi— North Carolina Poor People's Campaign (@NC_PPC) December 9, 2018
The North Carolina NAACP said of Eaton in a statement: "We celebrate her commitment and her conviction. We celebrate her righteousness and her resolve. What an inspiration it was to watch her lead the way for us to fight and win the monstrous voter suppression bill of all. Mother Eaton kept her eye on the prize."
I am incredibly saddened to hear about the death of Rosanell Eaton, a lifelong civil and voting rights advocate from North Carolina. Without activists like Rosanell demanding justice and equality for all, I wouldn’t be serving you in the U.S. Senate. pic.twitter.com/s8RCPAjEvY— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) December 10, 2018
In 2015, President Barack Obama wrote a letter to The New York Times, saying of Eaton: "Yet more than 70 years ago, as she defiantly delivered the Preamble to our Constitution, Rosanell also reaffirmed its fundamental truth. I am where I am today only because men and women like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full measure of equality. Their efforts made our country a better place. It is now up to us to continue those efforts."
Thank you Ms. Eaton for helping pave the way for African American voting rights and committing your life to the work. Rest in power.