Forty-Acres and a Mule Pulled One Former Slave Out of Oppression

Sarah Rector received international attention at the age of eleven when The Kansas City Star in 1913 publicized the headline, “Millions to a Negro Girl.” From that moment the former slave’s life became a magnet for misinformation, legal and financial maneuvering, and public speculation.

In an era where Blacks owned little more than the clothes on their backs, Rector became one of the richest little girls in America in 1914.

Rector was born among the Creek Indians, as a descendant of slaves. As a result of an earlier land treaty from the government.

In 1887, the government awarded the Creek minors children 160 acres of land, which passed to Rector after her parents’ deaths. Most of this land was of low value and shunned by serious real estate markets. Sarah’s turned up to be an exception. It contained some black fluid gold aka oil that pushed its value to $550.00.

Sarah was “given” wealth by the government.

In the early 1900s a black child becoming suddenly wealthy triggered immediate alarm among whites. This concern sparked efforts to put Sarah under “guardianship” of whites. Not just any whites but whites that stood to benefit from Sarah’s windfall.

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.

It was also rumored Sarah’s parents were ignorant and easily manipulated in the area of money management. Yet the middle class living standards of the family were in stark contrast to those rumors. There were also the ownership of a Bakery, Boarding School, and stocks and bonds that added credibility to claims that the family was not ignorant and free-wheeling spenders.

After turning 18, Sarah did go on to marry twice before dying at age 65 on July 1967. Sarah died with considerably less wealth than she accumulated however she did have some working oil wells and real estate holdings.


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