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Just in time for Black History Month, Tonya Bolden uncovers a relatively unknown black history fact about a young girl who grew up in Oklahoma.  “Searching For Sarah Rector:The Richest Black Girl in America,”  tells the true story of  12-year-old Sarah Rector who became the richest black girl in 1914.

“Oil Made Pickaninny 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, ” was a headline that appeared in The Kansas City Star on January 15, 1914, which was followed by even more headlines about Rector.

Courtesy of The Afrofuturist Affair:

Little Sarah Rector, a former slave, became one of the richest little girls in America in 1914. Rector had been born among the Creek Indians, as a descendant of slaves. As a result of an earlier land treaty from the government. Back in 1887, the government awarded the Creek minors children 160 acres of land, which passed to Rector after her parents’ deaths. Though her land was thought to be useless, oil was discovered in its depths in 1913, when she was just 10 years old. Her wealth caused immediate alarm and all efforts were made to put the child Sarah under “guardianship” of whites whose lives became comfortable immediately.  Meanwhile Sarah still lived in humble surroundings. As white businessmen took control of her estate, efforts were also made to put her under control of officials at Tuskegee Institute. Much attention was given to Sarah in the press.  In 1913, there was an effort to have her declared white, so that because of her millions she could ride in a first class car on the trains.

In Bolden’s book, she draws  extensively on primary sources, since there are no first hand person accounts left by Rector. The book includes numerous photos and illustrations, that can easily catch the interest of adults and children. download

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although little is known about how Rector’s life ended, Bolden does a good job of capturing the reader’s interest on something you probably didn’t learn about in history class.

  • Mmmgood

    “Little Sarah Rector, a former slave, became one of the richest little girls in America in 1914. Rector had been born among the Creek Indians, as a descendant of slaves.”

    I was confused by that part.

    Anyway, I will be getting this book. I have never heard of her before.

  • jennifer

    Creeks like other ‘Civilized Tribes’ such as the Cherokee owned slaves. For some tribes slavery was more like indenture in practice with individuals able to purchase their freedom while others adopted the chattel model of Europeans. Many African Americans traveled the Trail of Tears as tribal members and also as enslaved individuals.

    Don Cheadel discovered that his family were owned by Creek slave owners on African American Lives. Because the tribes were forced to free African Americans and recognize them as tribal members, many gained land (think 40 acres and a mule in Oklahoma). William Lorenz Katz writes a lot about the history of Black people in the American West.

    I wonder what happened to this girl later in life. At this time, all tribal members were ‘wards of the state’. I hope that she was able to enjoy some comfort and freedom

  • Mmmgood

    Ah…Thanks for making that clear for me.

  • The RealKay

    True. I am a descendant of slaves who were owned by Native American people, and my forebears went with them through the Trail of Tears. It was a fact my family did not readily admit (I had to research on my own and badger my family before they told me) as I had never known Native Americans to own slaves, but a few did. In fact, it was done in an effort to “whiten,” Native Americans by giving them the means to do so.

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