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 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.