*His name was Sylvester Magee and when he died in 1971, it was said he was 130 years old. If true, Magee lived to be the oldest person ever documented, surpassing someone in France who was documented to have lived to be 122 years old.
While there are some doubts about Magee’s record-breaking age, at the time of his death 50 years ago, a court record surfaced in Covington County, Mississippi that listed him as a young slave boy, along with his father, on a bill of sale in 1859. It’s not clear what Covington County’s court meant by calling Magee a “young boy” because grown Black men were often called “boy,” by slave owners. Therefore, it’s possible that Magee could have been 18 years old in 1859. He died in 1971.
Since no birth certificate was ever found because when Magee was born, Negro slaves did not have documents certifying their births because they were not considered human; they were categorized as property. Nevertheless, when Magee was 124 years old, he was honored by the governor of Mississippi. Then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson sent Magee a birthday card. And Magee was the subject of numerous articles written about his age in such magazines as Jet and Time.
The legend of Magee is even more surprising, as he is said to have fathered a baby girl when he was 109. And when he was well over 100 years old, he was married to a 55-year-old woman. And as a historical figure in Black history, Magee is believed to be the last living former American slave when he died 50 years ago.