Notable Deaths ›

Rosanell Eaton (1921 - 2018), North Carolina voting rights advocate

(Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Lead plaintiff in a 2013 suit that overturned a restrictive voting rights law

Rosanell Eaton (1921 – 2018) was a lead plaintiff in a 2013 lawsuit in North Carolina that overturned unfair voting restrictions.  

She joined the lawsuit to contest a state law that required prospective voters to present photo identification, did not allow them to register the same day that they planned to vote, and shortened the early voting period. 

In 2016, a federal court ruled that the restrictions were designed to discourage black voters who usually supported democrats. The Supreme Court heard the case and a 4-4 ruling meant it would not reinstate the restrictions.

Eaton grew up on a farm and attended segregated schools. She became a voting rights advocate after dealing with various racist acts including crosses burned in her yard. The first time she went to vote in 1942, she was forced to recite the preamble to the Constitution. She recited it perfectly, overcoming the oppressive voting test. The former teacher estimated that she helped thousands of people register to vote.

For her dedication to civil rights, President Obama invited her to the White House in 2016.

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Died: Saturday, December 8, 2018 (Who else died on December 8?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 97.


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Notable Quote: “I think, it is because my foreparents or forefathers didn’t have the opportunity.” – Eaton said when asked why she helped register so many voters – according to the Washington Post

What people said about her: "She was a lady of principle," her daughter Armenta Eaton told the Associated Press. She added that her mother taught her children to stand for what they believed in.

Full obituary: Los Angeles Times

Related lives:

Civil Rights Memorial Site

Dorothy Cotton (1930 – 2018), civil rights pioneer worked with Martin Luther King Jr.

Vel Phillips (1923 – 2017) – she was the first black person elected to a Wisconsin statewide office

Civil Rights Pioneers