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Consider Investigating The Fascinating Life Of Sarah Rector For Your Next Film...

by Tambay A. Obenson
July 15, 2013 1:36 PM
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I haven't done one of these "Consider" posts in a while. I hope to knock out a few this week.

If you're just joining us... as I come across material that I think would make good fodder for films, I'm sharing them here - from my Jackie Ormes piece, to The Black Count, to Ikire Jones: Lagos 2081 A.D., to Ghana's Leti Games and also Vanessa's The Sweet Hell Inside: The Rise of an Elite Black Family.

Today, consider the story of Sarah Rector - a young black girl born in Indian Territory on March 3, 1902, who, after humble early years, would go on to make headlines when she came into sudden wealth via oil rich land, after her parents died.

Courtesy of The Afrofuturist Affair:

Little Sarah Rector, a former slave, became one of the richest little girls in America in 1914. Rector had been born among the Creek Indians, as a descendant of slaves. As a result of an earlier land treaty from the government. Back in 1887, the government awarded the Creek minors children 160 acres of land, which passed to Rector after her parents’ deaths. Though her land was thought to be useless, oil was discovered in its depths in 1913, when she was just 10 years old. Her wealth caused immediate alarm and all efforts were made to put the child Sarah under “guardianship" of whites whose lives became comfortable immediately.  Meanwhile Sarah still lived in humble surroundings. 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. 

An absolutely fascinating story, isn't it? One that I'd never heard of before until this morning. And one that I'm sure you'd agree, would make for quite an interesting film.

I couldn't find a large photo of Sarah, so all there currently is online is the one on the left.

I did some further research and landed on the The African-Native American Genealogy Blog, which adds a bit more to the story, including the many marriage offers from around the world that Sarah received after the news of her sudden wealth traveled, as many everywhere fought to gain access this little girl's wealth. The blog also states that the black press at the time intervened in order to protect Sarah from all the leeches.

It's also said that she attended Tuskegee Institute, and after she completed her studies there, she moved to Kansas City. In 1922, she married a Kenneth Campbell, and owned lots of real estate in the city. The couple also entertained some of the black elite of the day. 

Apparently, and maybe not surprisingly, there isn't much written about Sarah - especially her childhood and the latter days of her life, although the Genealogy blog states that a biography of her life is currently being written.

Sarah's father Joe Rector was the son of John Rector, a Creek Freedman. John Rector's father Benjamin McQueen, was a slave of Reilly Grayson a Creek Indian. John Rector's mother Mollie McQueen was a slave of Creek leader, Opothole Yahola.

As the blog notes, there's definitely a rich history here that deserves further research and exploration. Hopefully Sarah's bio will be completed and maybe film rights to it will be optioned.

Newspaper clippings below courtesy of The Afrofuturist Affair. You'll find even more HERE.

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  • Carrina Moore | January 27, 2014 1:39 AMReply

    I would love to see a documentary on Sarah Rector's life. And I think it should be shared with the world.

  • Clara carlton | January 22, 2014 10:30 PMReply

    This a Amazing Story!!!! I'm excited to Learn More.

  • nate capani | July 30, 2013 7:55 PMReply

    Looking forward to having access to this site

  • Angela Y. Walton-Raji | July 19, 2013 1:07 PMReply

    There is a family of Campbell's living in Kansas City who are direct descendants of Sarah Rector and who attended her funeral in 1967, and took her back to Oklahoma to be buried after her death. Also there is much information that is available about her life and her contribution to the community in Kansas City during the 1930s, - 1950s.

  • Adrian | July 27, 2013 10:03 AM

    Where can I find that information about her life?

  • dee | July 16, 2013 2:16 PMReply

    This would make a great documentary. Very interesting story.

  • Aaron | July 16, 2013 7:55 AMReply

    The Fabulous Life? Being manipulated by White Supremacy for your inheritance is a fabulous life? Even back then I bet she was getting treated raw and they took her land but kept her blind to it all.

  • Jeni | July 16, 2013 8:18 AM

    @Aaron, You're misreading the title. It doesn't say "fabulous."

  • JMac | July 15, 2013 11:20 PMReply

    I just read about this girl last week on Abagond's tumblr and first thought that came to mind was what a great film it would make. But I would prefer a documentary as well.

  • Troy | July 15, 2013 8:28 PMReply

    This same land treaty lead to the development of Black Wallstreet in Tulsa which served as the setting of the 1920s racial riot. Where whites and clan members from the surrounding areas decimate the cities black economy.

  • jeni | July 15, 2013 5:53 PMReply

    I would like to see it become a PBS-style documentary. This story lies at a unique intersection of race and wealth, and I would hate to see it diminished by adding creative Hollywood flourishes for mass appeal.

  • BluTopaz | July 15, 2013 2:22 PMReply

    I'm reading a lot of historical fiction nowadays, Sarah would be a fantastic person to focus on.

  • Sharice Chasi | July 15, 2013 1:42 PMReply

    There is a great possibility she could be related to my family. I'm all on it!

  • Temi Abimbola | August 9, 2013 10:11 PM

    Whether iss you're right or wrong about your relations to Sarah rector. Are you benefiting from the spoils?

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