One hundred years is a long time. Nearly two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and Jim Crow are all events that 103-year-old Madie Scott lived through.
Madie has seen and experienced so much in her lifetime, that her granddaughter, Shanika Bradshaw (@blackbeauty_305), decided to use TikTok as a way to preserve her grandmother's memories and to share her story.
Recently, she shared a video of Madie talking about picking cotton as a teenager, and the story has more than 2 million views.
Madie started "working in the fields" in her hometown in Georgia at only 12. At 16, she moved to Miami, Florida because she heard she could make more money working as a sharecropper there. "I was picking cotton all day," Madie told BuzzFeed. "That's all there was to do. You can work in the house [babysitting or cleaning], but if you work in the field you make the most money."
For those who need a quick refresher, sharecropping is a type of farming where tenants would rent and work a portion of land in return for a share of the crops. It became extremely popular in the US after the Civil War, as a way for white landowners to take advantage of freed slaves looking for work. Landowners were able to get away with paying the sharecroppers virtually nothing for hours of labor, while facing no legal retribution.
For 50 cents a day, Madie was picking cotton from 3 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"My sister — oh, lord — she looked at me at 11:30 (a.m.) or quarter to 12, [because] she wanted to stop and rest," Madie teased about her late sister, who eventually worked alongside Madie as a sharecropper as well. "She had a lunch break at 12, but she wanted to stop working at 11:30."
After working for a few years as a sharecropper, and then a few years as a cook on Miami beach, Madie spent the next 40 years as a nanny, raising seven kids for a wealthy family, and sometimes staying overnight for one or two weeks at a time when the parents were away — all while raising her own children and bringing them to work with her.
Madie has spent a large majority of her life not only working, but laboring in intense, physically demanding jobs. She worked so much that when she stopped, she didn't quite know what to do with herself: "I used to go to the building in the front [where I used to work] and sit and look at the people working because I missed it."
After their mother died, Madie raised Shanika and her two brothers. Shanika said she's always been very close to her grandmother, but it wasn't until quite recently that the magnitude of her grandmother's life began to catch up with her.
Shanika said it's important to both her and her grandmother that they record Madie's life as part of history. "When you think of history, they really don’t talk about the truth. We hear about Christopher Columbus, but we don’t really hear too much of Black history," Shanika said.
For Madie, she said she wants young people especially to know the truth. "Ain't none of these young people will have to go through what I went through to get where I am now," Madie said. "Oh lord, I wish we had that — how y'all got everything laid out for you [in life] and you know where you’re going. When I was coming up, we didn’t know where we were going, all we know to do was work."
But even with Madie's new adoring fans and viral fame, she said she doesn't "feel no different." "They said, 'She’s glowing,'" Madie laughed. "But I'm just regular. Nothing changed about me."
Ms. Madie Scott turns 104 on Dec. 8. Feel free to wish her a happy birthday in the comments below and we will let her know!