Dying to Vote

As voting controversies multiply I think back to origins. I think of a Senator from Missouri and a lady who recently celebrated her 97th birthday in North Carolina.

Her name is Rosanell Eaton. As folks gathered in North Carolina to march to the polls, she stood, worn and feisty, and talked about the days when the poll tax, the tax on those showing up to register, was occasionally death. She and her mother rode in a mule drawn wagon for two hours to the courthouse in 1939, where she was determined to exercise her right to vote. She was confronted by the traditional test, the one given to black folks.

One man, as they were looking at each other again, told me: Stand up straight, against that wall, with your eyes looking directly toward me, and repeat the Preamble of the United States of America.

To everyone’s surprise, she looked the man in the eyes and repeated, word for word, the entire preamble to the Constitution of the United States.

Without missing a word, I did it.

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