Imagine Being a 10-Year Old Black Millionaire

Money to Burn/Victor Dubreuil/Wikimedia/Public Domain

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The average 10-year old is preoccupied with toys and games, but Sarah Rector was far from average -- she was a millionaire. Yes, you read that correctly. Sarah Rector, born in 1902, was “the richest Colored girl in the world,” a decade before Madam C.J. Walker would amass her own wealth.

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the Dawes Allotment Act divided the rocky lands among Native Americans and formerly enslaved Blacks. Each member of the Rector family was granted an allotment of around 160 acres individually, but little did they know Sarah’s share, originally valued at $556.60 would earn her a fortune.

In order to avoid having to pay the yearly income tax on the land, Sarah’s father helped her lease it to an oil company. Within days, the driller uncovered a massive oil supply that pumped over 2,500 barrels per day which in turn paid Sarah $300 per day. As the value of her land went up, she eventually made north of $15,000 per month.

At this point, it was nearly impossible to keep her identity concealed. Many whites were flabbergasted at the fact that a Black person could be so wealthy. One group even proposed a law to get her race legally changed to white.

The press slandered her family by purporting that they were incapable of managing this amount of money and insisted that a white man be her financial advisor. Sarah avoided having her money stolen or swindled under her nose by purchasing stocks, bonds, several properties, and a bakery.

Not only did prominent Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois catch wind of Sarah’s unbelievable story, she also had men from overseas sending her marriage proposals and countless family members begging for loans.

Despite these pressures, Sarah attended Tuskegee University and lived lavishly with her family up until her death in 1967.

Sarah Rector and other land-owning children were seen as a threat to the racial hierarchy because they would be entitled to full citizenship when they reached age 18. This peculiar situation only existed in the West where access to oil and land gave children hope and symbolized an end to their dependence on white folks.

If you'd like to learn more about Sarah Rector, pick up a copy of "Searching For Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl In America."

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