Imagine being born early enough to not only witness the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for voting rights, but to also witness what was once thought impossible. Emma Primas, a 109-year-old Houston woman, thought she’d never live to see a Black president in the White House, much less meet him.
Primas was a guest at the White House this past Tuesday for its Easter Prayer breakfast, invited by way of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. In a historic linking of pathways, Jackson Lee represents the 18th District, which is where late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan presided over when she became the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in the South.
Primas was surrounded by religious leaders at the breakfast, including the Reverend Al Sharpton. Jackson Lee noted Primas’ appearance at the breakfast gathering as it signaled the importance of how far the nation has come and what the centenarian has lived through. At one point, Primas had to pay a poll tax in Texas to vote and proudly did so even as it depleted her meager funds at the time.
Primas, who worked in San Francisco operating rail cars, also opened a grocery store in Northeast Houston. The store was a fixture of the community and Primas gave poor customers the grace of a “pay-as-you-can” grocery credit service. Along with her service to the community, Primas was also a member of the local NAACP and a longtime member of Houston’s First Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.
Photos show President Barack Obama leaning into greet and kiss Primas on the cheek. Resplendent in a stylish dress and a dazzling pearl necklace, the moment was captured by the White House photography team and immortalized a moment that her peers and family would have treasured greatly.