Who’s the first person that comes to mind when you think of the first Black female millionaire? It’s probably beauty entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, right? Well before Walker, also known as Sarah Breedlove, became a millionaire in 1914, there was another Sarah who also accumulated great wealth during her lifetime.
Her name was Sarah Rector. She was born in 1902 on an Indian territory in Oklahoma, where her parents were once owned by the Creek Indians prior to the Civil War. As a result of the Creek Nation signing a treaty between the U.S. Federal Government in 1866, their former slaves were emancipated and granted full citizenship in the Creek Nation. As a member of the “Creek Freedmen children”, Sarah and her family each received separate portion of land from the Creek Nation, who were forced to divide up the land and farm it under the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887. The lands were divided among white settlers, Indians and their former slaves, who received the poorest quality of the land.
However, in 1911, an oil reserve was discovered on then 10-year-old Sarah’s land, which led her to collect hundreds of dollars a day and between $11,000- $15,000 a month. Her newfound wealth intimidated white people, so much so that they attempted to put her under white guardianship and legally make her white. Despite these obstacles, by 18 years old, Sarah owned stocks, a restaurant, a boarding house, and officially became a millionaire.
If you’re interested in learning more about the incredible story of Sarah Rector, check out Tonya Bolden’s book: “Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America”