Susannah Mushatt Jones, the world’s oldest known person and the only living American born in the 19th century, died in New York City on Thursday evening at the age of 116, the New York Daily News reports.
Jones, who lived in a public housing facility for seniors in Brooklyn, was granted the title of “world’s oldest living person” in 2015. The previous record holder, Jeralean Talley of Inkster, Michigan, died in June 2015 at the age of 116. According to the Gerontology Research Group, the world’s new oldest person is now Emma Morano-Martinuzzi, a 116-year-old Italian woman born on November 29, 1899.
Born on a farm in Alabama in 1899, Jones was the child of African-American sharecroppers and the granddaughter of slaves. In 1922, she graduated from a private academy that was then called the Calhoun Colored School, New York magazine reports.
Jones was accepted to Tuskegee Institute’s teaching program, but her family couldn’t afford the tuition. Instead, Jones sought employment. She moved to New Jersey, and later, New York City, where she worked as a childcare provider and housekeeper for wealthy families. Jones used her salary to help send her nieces to college, and she also funded a college scholarship program for African-American students called The Calhoun Club, according to Time.
Jones retired in 1965, and moved back to Alabama. However, she eventually returned north after more of her relatives relocated there, according to Business Insider. Jones spent the remainder of her life in Brooklyn, where she became something of a local celebrity: Over the years, the supercentenarian received cards and well-wishes from President Barack Obama, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and countless other individuals.
Glaucoma caused her to go blind, and she also eventually lost most of her hearing. However, Jones remained otherwise healthy, and chalked her long life up to lots of sleep and steering clear of cigarettes and alcohol. (Good genes likely also played a part: According to U.S. Census data, Jones’s grandmother died at 117.)
Jones lived through two World Wars, voted in 20 presidential elections, and was around for countless other historic milestones. However, she's still not history’s oldest known person. That honor still goes to Jeanne Louise Calment, a woman from Arles, France, who died in 1997 at the age of 122.
Watch a video of Jones’s 116th birthday party above, courtesy of the New York Daily News.
[h/t New York Daily News]
Banner image courtesy of YouTube.