Hazel Ingram’s fondest memories are sitting on her grandmother’s lap listening to stories that spoke of strength and freedom from a woman who, as a slave, was once not considered free under the United States Constitution.
In a few weeks, Ingram, 93, will cast one of the 29 Electoral College votes in New York that will determine the next American president.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the president must be chosen by an Electoral College of 538 members, needing only 270 to win.
“My only sister always said I would be one of those great politicians. Maybe this is what happens. I never dreamed that I was going to be here,” she told NBC News.
As the oldest of five siblings, Ingram remembers harvesting vegetables, peanuts and cotton and cleaning around the farm in Georgia as a duty to her family, work she described as “a good life of living.”
But when it came to her civic duty, Ingram never imagined that decades later she would have a role in the 2016 presidential election.
She was born in 1923, three years after the ratification of the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. Back then, during an era of racial segregation and widespread disenfranchisement of blacks — especially in the South, conversations surrounding politics and voting registration were seen as taboo.
It wasn’t until she moved to New York in her early 20s that the phrase “registering to vote” come up.
Still, even north of the Mason Dixon line, she faced hardships.
Moving to the “Big Apple”, Ingram said “it wasn’t too easy.” She recalls making purses, working for a shoe factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and making soldiers’ field jackets during the war to make ends meet.
After working an eight hour day at her first job, Ingram made ends meet at a second job by cleaning office buildings.
“I never [understood] really why I liked [cleaning] so well but I do and I’m going to still keep hanging in there with it and continue as long as I can,” Ingram said.