Born as the daughter of freedmen in 1902, Sarah Rector rose from humble beginnings to reportedly become the wealthiest black girl in the nation at the age of 11.
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.