Daughter of Slaves Not Recognized as World’s Oldest Woman

Rebecca Lanier is 119 years old but, like most black Americans of her time, was never issued a birth certificate.

By Thoai Lu Mar 29, 2011

According to The Root, Rebecca Lanier just turned 119 this week. Born in Mississippi to former slaves, Lanier believes she’s the oldest person in the world. Although the federal government has verified her age, Guinness World Records will not recognize her status without a birth certificate.

The irony is that Lanier was born in 1892, a time when it was not common for African-American babies to be issued birth certificates. So despite living through twenty presidencies, she’s still experiencing the residual effects of racial inequality that existed when she was born.

"It’s quite a rigorous process that you go through because the birth certificate is a crucial matter," a Guinness World Records spokesman told MailOnline.

Lanier has a letter from the Social Security Administration that states her birth year as 1892, but a Social Security spokesman said the verification of age is burdened on the claimants who must provide official documents, which can be birth certificates, citizenship certificates or permanent residence cards.

Although Lanier cannot break the record, she is still glad to have excellent health. She has outlived her two daughters and, as her grandson Jimmie Shambley told Fox 4, "She has 15 great-great- grand kids, 18 great-great-great grand kids and has two great-great-great-great grand kids."