Women’s History Is Now— The Oldest Living American Is Now A Black Woman

Houston, we have a celebration! At 114-years-old a Black woman living in Houston, has just become the oldest living person in America and fifth-oldest person on Earth, according to LongeviQuest and the Gerontology Research Group.

Francis became the new recordholder after California resident Edie Ceccarelli died on February 22 at 116-years-old. Among the people who live beyond the age of 110, or super centenarians, she is only “surpassed by Juan Vicente Perez Mora (Venezuela, 114), Inah Canabarro Lucas (Brazil, 115), Tomiko Itooka (Japan, 115), and Maria Branyas Moera (Spain, 116). Branyas was born several months before Ceccarelli.”

Elizabeth Francis was born in Louisiana on July 25, 1909. For context, this was shortly after William Taft’s presidential inauguration. During her lifetime, Francis has survived both World Wars, two pandemics, saw women gain the right to vote, and lived through segregation to see our nation’s first Black president.

LongeviQuest is an international organization that measures and records what it refers to as “maximum human longevity.” In a press release after her birthday last July, LongeviQuest CEO Ben Meyers stated, “Ms. Elizabeth Francis is admired around the world, both for her longevity and her approach to life…Reaching this milestone was never an aspiration for her, merely a byproduct of how she lived her life every day, doing right by her loved ones and by God. We can all learn from her example.”

Ethel Harrison, Francis’ granddaughter says that “Francis has some memory problems and is confined to her bed, but she’s mentally alert and recognizes her family.”

How did she achieve this feat? Dr. Holly Holmes, a geriatric physician, believes “Francis has done everything right when it comes to living longer…‘Things that we know we need to do like moving more, eating better, having a more plant-based diet, having social connections, avoiding loneliness and isolation.’”

Harrison echoed these sentiments, relaying how, “She tried to do things to stay healthy…Her life basically was pretty simple. She didn’t go out to parties and stuff like that. She was more of a homebody. She would go to church.” In addition, Harrison noted how her grandmother did refrain from smoking or drinking alcohol and that Francis was a regular walker up into her 90s.

But Francis has always attributed her long lifespan to God and saying what’s on her mind. “If the Good Lord gave it to you, use it. Speak your mind, don’t hold your tongue,” Francis says.

And longevity seems to be a family trait. Francis’ sister Bertha Johnson was 106-years-old when she passed away in 2011 and her father made it to 99. Per Western Mass News, “The sisters are among the sibling pairs with the oldest combined age in world history.” In addition, her daughter is 94-years-young, and Harrison who also serves as her caregiver is 68-years-old.

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