Mrs. Evelyn Green White is celebrated her 100th birthday on Oct. 11 (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
mgreen@afro.com

Evelyn Greene White’s century celebration is more than a cause for acknowledging a milestone birthday, but a moment to reflect on the true narrative of strength and resiliency that has allowed for a Black woman to thrive despite the blatant and systemic racism she has overcome.  White  is a living example that one can find lifelong joy by trusting God and helping others, because at the age of 100, she said her faith, high standards for others and kindness, has contributed to her longevity. 

“Helping to support others in realizing their dreams, holding high expectations for her children and students, and knowing that everything is in God’s hands,” is what, White explained, has been the secret sauce that has led to 100 years on earth.

White was born on October 11, 1921.  She’s lived through World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Jim Crow, the assassinations of major leaders, the passing of Civil Rights bills, the elections of America’s first Black President and Vice President, and is continuing to thrive during a pandemic.

Publicist and family friend Sharon Goods noted that in 100 years, White’s story, as a mother, wife, teacher and devout Christian, is America’s story.

“Ms. Evelyn’s is America’s story,” Goods explained.  “It is one about the policies of a country that would require her and her husband to save the entire amount to purchase a home, as banks only mortgages to Caucasians.  It is the story of an American whose husband served in the war and returned home to be denied GI benefits of a college education as the Veterans Administration reserved that only for Caucasians.  It is the story of a woman who buried two children and a loving spouse and still found love in her relationship with God.  It is an American story, a Black woman’s tale and, ultimately, a very human saga.”

While Black women are still devalued and persecuted today, more than half of Ms. White’s life was filled with a lack of rights and privileges as well as a social justice fight for African Americans and women.  Women (although afforded to primarily White women) were granted the right to vote in 1920 and a year later, White was born into a world where spaces were segregated, racism was pervasive and Black people were not afforded equal rights.  

“ a woman who sacrificed and took risks to get her own education- even her high school diploma.  A woman who experienced her husband’s gripping PTSD after returning from battle in WWII,” White’s daughter-in-law, Renee DeVigne said.  

White was married to her husband, the late Rev. Leon H. White, for more than 54 years and they had three children, Leon Jr., Barbara (both deceased) and Maurice.

White’s “young children went to a two-room segregated elementary school, first through third grades in one room, fourth through sixth grades in the second room, one big, potbelly stove to keep warm in each room, an outdoor toilet- not a bathroom, but a mere toilet,” DeVigne, who is married to White’s son Maurice, said.

The centenarian has not allowed life and societal challenges to stop her from achievements.  She was a successful teacher who has been described as, “innovative, creative and focused on individual student educational needs,” according to her son and daughter-in-law. “She kept an orderly classroom, and oriented her students to expect nothing else.”

Centenarian, Ms. Evelyn Green White. (Courtesy Photo)

Her students are not the only people who have learned from White, as her son and daughter-in-law, who she lives with, shared many of the lessons they have taken away from their matriarch.

“The powerful importance of an education and the practical application of an education everyday life issues,” is what White’s son said he’s taken away most from his mother.  “It motivated me to travel the world and pursue an education at top rated universities.”

DeVigne said White has taught her to, “Never give up! Never,” and to “Exercise every day!”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, White has remained busy by, “reading, praying daily, exercising and frequent phone calls with family and friends,” her son and daughter-in-law shared.

She not only lives with her son and daughter-in-law, but is close in proximity to her grandson an

Due to the dangerous nature of COVID-19, White’s family celebrated her 100th birthday at a penthouse restaurant along the District’s waterfront, but told the AFRO they “hope to have a much larger celebration when COVID conditions abate.”

Her family described her as an “inspiration” to all people.

“Mom is an inspiration to everyone around her due to her strong faith, indomitable spirit and her incredibly happy and secure personality.”

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor