Her Story: Sarah Rector

Sarah Rector (1902-1967), the 11-year-old who became the richest black girl in America. 

Born The daughter of a freedman in the predominantly black town of Taft, Oklahoma in 1902, Sarah Rector and her family were African-American members of the Muscogee Creek Nation. Each of the Rectors received a land allotment from the Dawes Allotment Act in 1907 just before Oklahoma became a state. The act divided Creek lands among the Creeks and their former slaves, with the former slaves receiving rockiest, least fertile land. Rector’s land allotment was 160 acres valued a $556.50.  

Due to the laws at the time which limited a person of color’s right to manage wealth, her guardianship was switched to a white man named T.J. Porter, a family acquaintance. His life immediately improved, while Rector and her family continued to live a very humble life. After several news stories were printed about the injustice of Rector’s situation, members of the African-American community stepped in to help improve her situation.

Landowners were responsible for land taxes, even if the land was unusable. In Rector’s case, the tax bill was $30 annually. To cover the taxes, Rector’s father leased her land to an oil company for oil exploration. In 1913, the company produced a “gusher” on Rector’s land that produced 2500 barrels a day. Sarah Rector’s income ballooned from zero to $300 a day. Eventually, mutable wells were produced and her land became part of the Cushing-Drumright Field.

When Rector turned 18, in 1920,  she moved to Kansas City, Missouri with her entire family. By this time Rector owned stocks and bonds, a bakery, a boarding house, 2,000 acres of prime river bottomland, and the Busy Bee Cafe. Sarah Rector was a millionaire. Her story is an important part of American history that needs to be told, it gives us a deeper glimpse into the complex social issues of race, discrimination, and citizenship in the 20th century.

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shaunaupp

Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.

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