Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sarah Rector The Richest Black Girl In The World


Many of Blacks pride themselves in the knowledge that Madame C.J. Walker and Oprah are / were successful millionaires. However, there is a bit of Black History that goes back to 1914 that most of the Black Community has never heard of.

A 10 year old millionaire, made headlines like this .....

"The Kansas City Star reported: “Millions to a Negro Girl - Sarah Rector, 10-Year Old, Has Income of $300 A Day From Oil,”

Little known history brought to light.............

By Stacey Patton

Sarah Rector

Her name was Sarah Rector. She was a young black girl born in Indian Territory on March 3, 1902. Her parents were Joseph and Rose Rector

Oil made her rich. Oklahoma Girl With $15,000 A Month Gets Many Proposals – Four White Men in Germany Want to Marry the Negro Child That They Might Share Her Fortune.”

This headline, which appeared in The Kansas City Star on January 15, 1914, was just the first of many newspaper and magazine headlines during the next decade about Sarah Rector, the richest black child known to the world in that era.

In September, 1913, The Kansas City Star reported: “Millions to a Negro Girl - Sarah Rector, 10-Year Old, Has Income of $300 A Day From Oil,” and The Savannah Tribune ran: “Oil Well Produces Neat Income – Negro Girl’s $112,000 A Year.”

In 1914 and 1915, the Salt Lake Telegram, The Oregonian and American Magazine profiled the “bewildered little ten year-old girl” and told of how she inherited her “big income” but still wore tattered dresses and slept each night in a big armchair beside her six siblings in a two-room prairie house in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

By the early 1920s, many newspapers covered the court battles involving white men seeking to become Rector’s guardian to gain control over her estate.

She was one of a group of Creek freedman children who were given land allotments by the U.S. government as part of the Treaty of 1866.


Sarah Rector was born in 1902, near Taft in Indian Territory, the northeastern part of present-day Oklahoma. Though she was “colored,” she was not an African-American child and had no concept of what it meant to be an American citizen. Rector was a descendant of slaves who had been owned by Creek Indians before the Civil War.

In 1866, the Creek Nation signed a treaty with the United States government promising to emancipate their 16,000 slaves and incorporate them into their nation as citizens entitled to “equal interest in the soil and national funds.”

Two decades later, the federally imposed Dawes Allotment Act of 1887 sparked the beginning of the “total assimilation” of the Indians of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes by forcing them to live on individually-owned lots of land instead of communally as they had done for centuries.

There was a great deal of resistance to this plan by the Creeks and other tribes, who viewed it as yet another tactic by the U.S. government to destroy the tribe’s political sovereignty and way of life.

But as a result of the Dawes Allotment Act, nearly 600 black children, or Creek Freedmen minors as they were called, inherited 160 acres of land, unlike their African-American counterparts who were granted citizenship after slavery but never got that promised “forty acres and a mule.”

To the surprise of U.S. government officials, a few old and young allottees like Sarah Rector found that their land came with crude oil and other minerals underneath the soil.

When she was born, Rector was given a rough, hilly allotment, considered worthless agriculturally, in Glenpool, 60 miles from where she and her family lived. Her father had petitioned the Muskogee County Court to sell the land, but he was denied because of certain restrictions placed on the land, for which he was required to continue paying taxes.

In 1913, when she was ten years old, large pools of oil were discovered on Rector’s land. One year later, her land produced so much oil that she had already yielded $300,000; her fortune was increasing at a rate of $10,000 per month. Her mother had died years earlier from tuberculosis. In 1914, her father died in prison, leaving her orphaned.

Even before her father’s death, Rector was appointed a guardian who was responsible for managing Rector’s money and providing for her education and care.

The law at the time required full-blooded Indians, black adults and children who were citizens of Indian Territory with significant property and money, to be assigned “well-respected” white guardians who often cheated them out of their lands.

There are stories of swindlers, oil tycoons and other unscrupulous types who kidnapped and murdered the children and adults to get their land.

Unlike other hapless waifs who fell victim to fraud, losing their land and wealth while growing up in a western frontier fraught with violence, fraud and racism, Rector was one of a few black children able to ward off greedy guardians and retain her wealth as an adult.

Rector graduated high school, attended Tuskegee University, and then moved to Kansas City at age 19. She purchased a mansion on Twelfth Street, entertaining Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Joe Louis and Jack Johnson at lavish parties. Not much is known of her later life other than stories of how she splurged on jewelry, fine clothes, and cars.

Much of Rector’s adult life is still needs to be developed, as is the case for the study of the history of black childhood in America. Rector is significant because hers is a vital yet untold story about the complexities or race, childhood, and citizenship on the American frontier in the early 20th century.

Source of story:

Sarah Rector The Richest Colored Girl in the World The Defenders Online A Civil Rights Blog


Angela Y. Walton-Raji said...

It is good to see that the story of Sarah Rector is finally getting press. Note that there are some errors in the article as Sarah was not orphaned while a child. Her father died in 1922, in Texas and his body was shipped to her mother Rosa, who lived in Muskogee. Sarah lived with her parents in Muskogee till she attended Tuskegee. I have an article about Sarah also on my blog at:

John Rhea said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brenda Thompson said...

Thank you Angela, for your comment.
I was fascinated by the Creek Indians' treaty for their slaves acquiring land. I wonder if there were any Thompson slaves. It is so unfortunate that guardians were able to get away with cheating the young people out of their rightful inheritances.

B. L. Thompson, California

Deborah Martin said...

Would like to know how her surname became Rector. Is there any association to Rector street in Manhattan named after rectors of the slave built Trinity Church who won't release the names and documents of our ancestors who built it and the Wall street in front of it? So curious about this story.

Natasha McCoy said...

Would love to know when she died and if she ever had kids?

Ronkeita Johnson said...

Did she leave the money for other Independent African Americans?

Tony Powell said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful piece of black history. I will share this with my children.

Darryl Rector said...

My name is Darryl Patrick Rector I want to know if Sarah is my blood line

Darryl Rector said...

If anyone out there know more please help me I am the last Rector from my father left and he passed away in 2004

Darryl Rector said...

I have been told all my life that I am ken to her so am working hard to connect the Dots , all my info is current if so one want reach out .. Thank You Darryl P Rector

Darryl Rector said...

Sarah passed July 22,1967 I was Three years Old and she did not have kids .

Darryl Rector said...

Steve Harvey help me our Oprah someone please help me

Unknown said...

There is a book about Sarah rector that says she had two marriages. No children from the first but 2 sons from her second marriage. The second husband was said to have been in Chicago with the 2 sons but one of the sons was with her in her later years...