She has seen 18 presidents, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt, during her lifetime and is looking forward to yet another; this time a Black American. In the span of her life Sarah Carter Brown has lived through the Great Depression, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement and the historic 2008 presidential election. Today the native of Twiggs County, Georgia and New Jersey resident turns 105.
Brown was born just seven years after the historic and infamous United States Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, that established “separate but equal’ as the nation’s guiding doctrine. Like so many others of her generation, Brown witnessed the cruelty of Jim Crow and was part of the “Great Migration” of southern Blacks to northern states during the 1920’s. Her marriage in 1919, at age 17, is framed by one of the worst episodes of racial violence in our nation’s history – “Red Summer,” during which seventy six Blacks are lynched. While in her twenties she cleaned houses during the Great Depression for ten cents and hour and during the 1940’s she was paid $12 a week as a factory worker.
Her life mirrors the timeline of Black American’s ascendancy in our country. It is marked by the high points – the Montgomery Bus Boycott – to the low points – the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and is punctuated by her casting a ballot for Barack Obama on November 4 and witnessing an event she doubted she would see in her lifetime. And as amazing as the many milestones that have occurred over the course of her life, there may be none that rivals the vindication of her nephew, professional boxer Reuben “Hurricane” Carter.
To say that Sarah Carter Brown has led an active life is an understatement. The centenarian drove until age 95 and was still fishing just two years ago. She enjoyed gardening and grew all of her food on her farm in Monroeville, New Jersey. Despite the many challenges she has encountered over the course of her life, she is known to be a positive spirit who always suggests that “when you are faced with disappointment and people let you down, keep your mind stayed on Jesus and keep the faith.” She attributes her long life to “Jesus, good genes and good living” and at 105 no one can argue with her reasoning.
Brown, who has lived most of her life in southern New Jersey, is the oldest member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Glassboro. A longtime positive role model in her community, the former steam presser and factory worker, is also a holistic healer and will be honored today by family and friends at a birthday celebration at the nursing home in which she resides in Williamstown, New Jersey. She will be treated to excerpts from a book, Aunt Sarah’s Recipes for a Long & Spirit Filled Life, written by her great niece, Caryl Lucas, a motivational speaker and former journalist with the Star-Ledger newspaper.
"My aunt inspired me to write her book of wisdom because she has been my biggest role model and the greatest example of faith in action I know," said Lucas, who just completed the three year book project. "Aunt Sarah's Recipes for a Long & Spirit Filled Life” is a tribute to our family's matriarch and healer. Her Mother wit and wise tales taught me the essence of faith, perseverance and the importance of family holding onto our rich traditions."
Lucas said her Aunt Sarah represents the many "nanas'" in the African American community who cleaned houses and worked in factories during the great migration north. "My auntie picked cotton back in Georgia and only went to the third grade, but has a master's degree in serving God and helping others."
For more information on the book due out in February, visit www.caryllucas.com