The Richest Black Girl Who Legally Became White

black history month

Comedy Hype looks at great feats in black history month with the new episode of ‘A Story Should Know.’  The outlet explores the life of Sara Rector also known as the first black millionaire child. According to her story, Rector was so rich, she would end up being declared as white.

Deborah Brown grew up calling her “Aunt Sister,” and she remembers her storied life through the haze of childhood in segregated Kansas City, Mo., more than a half a century ago.

There were the fancy limos and Cadillacs that ferried young relatives to school and out for barbecue, the White-owned department store that opened its doors just so Sarah Rector could shop; the rolling farmland where Rector would invite Brown’s mother and the children for family gatherings.

black history month

Brown, then a grade-schooler living in a two-bedroom house with three siblings, her parents and her grandmother, marveled but didn’t dare ask questions.

“We’re from a generation where you don’t spread family business,” said Brown, a very fit-looking 72-year-old with a short afro seated in the lobby of the Hampton Inn in Bowie, Md.

Rector and her family where African American members of the Muscogee Creek Nation who lived in a modest cabin in the predominantly black town of Taft, Oklahoma, which, at the time, was considered Indian Territory. Following the Civil War, Rector’s parents, who were formerly enslaved by Creek Tribe members, were entitled to land allotments under the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887. As a result, hundreds of black children, or “Creek Freedmen minors,” were each granted 160 acres of land as Indian Territory integrated with Oklahoma Territory to form the State of Oklahoma in 1907.

While lands granted to former slaves were usually rocky and infertile, Rector’s allotment from the Creek Indian Nation was located in the middle of the Glenn Pool oil field and was initially valued at $556.50. Strapped for cash, Rector’s father leased his daughter’s parcel to a major oil company in February 1911 to help him pay the $30 annual property tax. Two years later, Rector’s fortune took a major turn when independent oil driller B.B. Jones produced a “gusher” on her land that brought in 2,500 barrels or 105,000 gallons per day. According to Tonya Bolden, author of Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America (Harry N. Abrams; $21.95), Rector began earning more than $300 a day in 1913. That equates to $7,000 – $8,000 today. She even generated $11,567 in October 1913.


At the time, a law required Native Americans, black adults, and children who were citizens of Indian Territory with significant property and money were to be assigned “well-respected” white guardians. As a result, Rector’s guardianship switched from her parents to a white man named T.J. Porter. Concerned with her wellbeing and her white financial guardian, early NAACP leaders fought to protect her and her fortune. According to a report from BlackPast.org:

In 1914 The Chicago Defender published an article claiming that her estate was being mismanaged by grafters and her “ignorant” parents, and that she was uneducated, dressed in rags, and lived in an unsanitary shanty. National African American leaders such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois became concerned about her welfare. None of the allegations were true. Rector and her siblings went to school in Taft, an all-black town closer than Twine, they lived in a modern five-room cottage, and they owned an automobile.  That same year, Rector enrolled in the Children’s House, a boarding school for teenagers at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

By the time she turned 18, Rector was worth an estimated $1 million, or about $11 million today. She also owned stocks and bonds, a boarding house, a bakery and restaurant in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and 2,000 acres of land. She eventually left Tuskegee with her family and moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where she bought a grand home that still stands today. “There, the Rectors eventually moved into a home that was a far cry from that weather-whipped two-room cabin in which Sarah began life. This home-place was a stately stone house. It became known as the Rector Mansion,” Bolden told the New York Amsterdam News.