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Inaugural Ball Nancy Reagan

Source: Allan Tannenbaum / Getty

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, regarded as one of the most influential women to hold the position, died of congestive heart failure at the age of 94. She will be remembered for many things, especially for those who look back fondly at the Reagan era. But amongst African-Americans, what she perhaps will best be remembered for is the “Just Say No” campaign against youth drug abuse.

“Say yes to life,” Nancy Reagan said, “and when it comes to drugs and alcohol, just say no.”

“Just Say No” seems like a quaint slogan from our vantage point 30 years forward. And it sounds like a throwback to another era, when the war on drugs was just starting to kick in, leading to the incarceration explosion in communities of color.

Nancy Reagan recalled that the phrase came after she met with a group of children. According to theRonald Reagan Library,  this is how it happened: “A little girl raised her hand,” Mrs. Reagan recalled, “and said, ’Mrs. Reagan, what do you do if somebody offers you drugs?’ And I said, ’Well, you just say no.’ And there it was born.”

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source: The

Nancy Reagan’s Biggest Legacy With African-Americans  was originally published on