Weird History

Money Over Race: The Story of Sarah Rector, The Black Girl So Wealthy She Was Considered To Be White

The long period in American history between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement carried on the legacy of racism against Black Americans. Even though the slaves had been freed, white Americans were still terrified of the idea of Black people in positions of power. And so, when a pre-teen girl became an overnight millionaire, she was legally declared white.

Most people have never heard the name Sarah Rector. Rector became staggeringly wealthy because oil was discovered on the land she was granted as the descendent of slaves owned by Native Americans. Later, she purchased the Sarah Rector Mansion in Kansas City, Missouri. Millionaire Sarah Rector received marriage proposals in the mail, even though she was still a tween.

The story of the slave child who became a millionaire grabbed headlines around the world. And Rector's mistreatment by her white guardians drove prominent Black leaders like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois to offer her support. But what, exactly, was Sarah Rector's net worth? Well, in 1914, she paid more income taxes in the state of Oklahoma than any other resident — and she was only 12.