103-Year-Old African American Grandma Describes What It Was Like To Pick Cotton For The Whiteman

A 103-year-old grandmother is sharing her piece of history — and going viral along the way.

Shanika Bradshaw recently shared a video on TikTok, featuring her grandmother Madie Scott speaking about her experience picking cotton in the fields as a teenager.

cotton picker whiteman

The video quickly picked up steam, garnering over 687,000 likes and more than 21,000 comments, as viewers applauded Scott for sharing her perspective as a Black woman who supported her family and witnessed the past century.

“When you think of history, they really don’t talk about the truth,” Bradshaw told Buzzfeed of her grandmother, who raised her and her two brothers after their mom died.

“We hear about Christopher Columbus, but we don’t really hear too much of Black history. So I feel it’s important for me to put this out there so people can hear it firsthand,” she added. “This is what happened, these people — not just my grandmother — but other people who built up America and were never acknowledged for it.”

In the viral video, Bradshaw can be heard asking her grandmother questions about her experience picking cotton, such as what the cotton was used for and whether she was paid for her work.

Scott was quick to respond, telling her granddaughter that they used the material to make cotton clothes and that she was picking cotton every day from 3 a.m. to 5 p.m. for just 50 cents per day.

The centenarian, who turns 104 on Dec. 8, later elaborated on her past, telling Buzzfeed that she started “working in the fields” in her Georgia hometown at age 12.

When Scott turned 16, she decided to move to Miami, Florida in order to make more money working as a sharecropper there.

“I was picking cotton all day,” Scott told BuzzFeed of her time as a sharecropper, which is a type of farming in which families rented and worked on a portion of land in return for a share of the crops.

“That’s all there was to do,” Scott added to Buzzfeed, noting that she also worked beside her sister at one point. “You can work in the house [babysitting or cleaning], but if you work in the field you make the most money.”

Though the pay was very little, Scott said she continued on so she could provide a better life for herself and her family.

“Today was the first day that I felt a little sad,” Bradshaw admitted to Buzzfeed. “I was asking her about the pay. I asked her if she forgave the people for how she was treated and she said, ‘Yeah, I did forgive them a long time ago. Even though I was overworked and put in so much work and was paid so little.'”

Though Scott’s past is rich in history, Bradshaw told Buzzfeed it wasn’t until recently that she started to pay more attention and record these videos. And as much as Bradshaw has enjoyed it, it’s been clear that the TikTok community has also fallen in love with Scott.

“I said, ‘Grandma, do you know 2 million people watched that video?'” Brashaw recalled to Buzzfeed. “And she said, ‘That’s a lot of people! You had me on there looking raggedy!'”

“[I] feel no different,” Scott added. “They said, ‘She’s glowing,’ But I’m just regular. Nothing changed about me.”

As the videos continue to circulate, Scott hopes that they will inspire others to uncover the truths about their ancestors and encourage them to appreciate their lives.

“Ain’t none of these young people will have to go through what I went through to get where I am now,” Scott told Buzzfeed. “Oh lord, I wish we had that — how y’all got everything laid out for you [in life] and you know where you’re going. When I was coming up, we didn’t know where we were going, all we know to do was work.”

Scott went on to work as a sharecropper for a few more years before transitioning into a role as a cook in Miami Beach, according to Buzzfeed. She later became a nanny for a wealthy family, spending the next 40 years helping to raise and care for their seven kids while she also raising her own, per the outlet.

Many times, Scott would have to bring her children to work because the wealthy parents would ask her to stay overnight for one to weeks at a time while they were away, she told Buzzfeed.

In 1989, when she was in her 80s, Scott finally stopped working — but the change of routine was difficult for her to adjust to, the outlet reported.

“I didn’t do like a lot of people that get Social Security. I wasn’t worried about getting no money,” she explained to Buzzfeed. “I used to go to the building in the front [where I used to work] and sit and look at the people working because I missed it.”


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