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Sarah Breedlove Walker & Sarah Rector: Who was America's first black millionairess?

2011-02-28 | 🔗

Often, when people discuss America's first black female millionaire, they're talking about a women named Sarah Breedlove Walker, also known as Madame C.J. Walker. But someone else, another Sarah in fact, may have beaten her. A black girl named Sarah Rector became a millionaire in 1911 or 1912, when she was only 10 years old.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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This is Danny Shapiro Post of the hit had cast family secrets. I hope you'll join us for some incredible conversations about family identity and what happens to both when the secrets that have been kept from us and the secrets we keep finally come to light. Listen and subscribe, Annie. I aren't radio apple pie cast. Are you listen to your favorite pie, costs. welcome to stuff. You missed in history class from Housetop works, dot com eleven welcome to the power cast, I'm fair gouty and I'm going to talk of wording and the question that we have on the table was America's Hearst Black Millionairess, isn't one that you think would be really up for debate. I mean most.
For when they discuss America's first black female millionaire they're talking about a woman named Sarah Breed Love, Walker, whose also known, as Madame see, J Walker, Walker foreign and eighteen sixty seven. She was the daughter of former slaves and she was raised in a shack in Louisiana. She, however, managed short her way, all the way from being a washerwoman to own own Multi million dollar company, called Madame see J Walker, manufacturing, company and kind of that. The key to her Ass was invented, formula for a product that gave african american women smooth shiny hair, and she did that nineteen o five so released made woman worked her way up most the story and say that Walker became a millionaire around nineteen fourteen or nineteen fifteen. So she was nearly fifty years old when she got there. She's the lady who you learn about when you're studying lack history in school elect.
the picture eat. I reckon either, if you, if he saw her, you recognize her advertisements even she's, very famous, even today exactly it's someone else, another person named Sarah fag. How about that? There is a very popular this Harrison may have actually beaten her to the punch in it was a black girl named Sarah rector who became a millionaire somewhere around nineteen eleven or nineteen twelve, and really amazing part about this- is that she was only ten years old and he's gonna pause here to say that a lot of very dates in this pod cast come from an article about rapture that was published in the crisis last year. The crisis, The end w c p magazine- and it was article called the richest colored girl in the world. So we kind of do I guess just One set of dates, because there's a lot of debate about what it's happened. The wind the where everything like that, because there is really nothing information out, thereabout or Vienna much that with that was documented by
if we're going to, though she's ten years old, it nineteen then eighteen, twelve at at a young age. Obviously her well did not come from hard work. Like Madam Fiji Walker from the successful business. Instead, it was the result of a combination of legislation, speculation and quite obviously a little that a good luck. But, time she didn't have an easy either. She had really humble beginnings story, though, is a little different from some others that you might hear about growing up black in North America round the turn of the twentieth century. She was born March. Third, nineteen, oh two initial territory, which would later become the state of Opel Home nineteen o seven. So this kind of Northeast Oklahoma. You can think about it that way, and she was born near the town of Taft, which was an all blocked on, but there's something interesting about. Being born in indian territory at this time, because, even though she is black by birthright
she's, a member of the creek nation, go figure right, so here's the grounds that some native Americans, an indian territory, had african slaves prior to the civil war. Just like some white people, dead, however, as a result of the treaty of eighteen, sixty six, which was between the? U S, government and the five civilized tribes, not included the creek, the Cherokee. The talk talk chicken on Seminole tribes. He's tribes had to abolish slavery and make the former slaves who were known from that point. Friedman, full members of their tribes and asset they had quote an equal interest in the soil. So it was amazing because blacks finally had their own land was a big landmark thing to happen for them here, and there were members of indian nation so kind of a strange combination of identity, terror, but thought all that that
important word. There became really significant and eighty and eighty seven with the passage of the dog allotment act and basically it with a policy that did away with communal tribal land, holding in preparation for turning indian territory into a state, and the aim was to absorb tried members into U S, society and, as part of the act. A few things happen. One was right nation lands, which were, of course giant locks plan, were broken into individual parcels that, where In turn, given to individual, tried member, though every try, member guy a hundred and sixty acres of land and then once everything was divided up and everybody got his or her share. There was a third ass of land that was sold to white sutlers, yet situation native Americans and Black Friedman, they were concerned equally when these land parcels were handed out. So as part of this
the native Americans in black Friedman were considered equally, when the land parcels were actually handed out something interesting happened as part of this about four thousand four hundred and seven black children receive nearly one million acres of land and Eastern Oklahoma, so everybody was getting apiece and dated two, and since then tradition of these lands lasted until nineteen O. Six rector was one of those kids that got some land as well, but just getting the land isn't what made rector rich. In fact, out of the land of the native Americans and Friedman ended up with, was considered to be completely worthless. They the rocky Hilly staff, basically the stuff that you couldn't do anything with, and the land that was considered. Farmer, bull and useful, was given to white settlers or put up for white subtle, be able to perch and ashes and make some money off of it. The rector
her little powerful land when she was about four years old and it was located in an area known as Glenn Pool and initially it was praised, is only being worth five hundred fifty six dollars and fifty cents. I think that the important to add that little note in there and her dad Joseph Rector was just not interested on owning this property or his daughter owning the poverty because he was gonna have to pay taxes on it, though he tried to sell it off. He petition the with go. He county court to to let him fell it, but there were restrictions in place about the land and he couldn't fell it because Pharaoh with a minor and there for she couldn't legally enter into business contract, though he had it. Paying taxes on what everyone thought was entirely worthless land and it was a struggle for the family because they don't have a lot of money, so really kind of significant thing. Then, however, in February nineteen eleven a businessman,
Baby Jones made a discovery on rector's property. That kind of changed everything and that was oil, yeah cue, the better Hilda leave yeah definitely mentioned dates. We have to mention here exact figures regarding the income that she ended up. Getting from this oil tend to vary we can say that by about nineteen, teen, her landed already earned around three hundred thousand dollars and her income was increasing at a rate of ten thousand per month. So a hundred thousand dollars and her income was increasing at a rate of tax. The crisis. Some national newspapers reported that a nineteen thirteen her income from oil revenue is as high as fifty thousand dollars a month. A whole lot of money. You think, then, if she's bring it in all of this money, her family would at least be living comfortably, even if, if they didn't have access to all of it, it have a little
thing going on, but reports had her still living in a two room shanty with her family, which included five sibling, so tight quarters, their wearing a cheap dress and new shoes. Plus she wasn't even in school. So clearly some had gone terribly wrong. If this little girl could be making how much money and gotten so lucky with her allotment of land and still she's living in poverty right. It didn't really help that, while all this is going on, sure may have become an orphan and we say may have. It doesn't seem like us of your question, but we say may have because some sources say that her mother, Rosa Doktor had died of tuberculosis a few years prior and that her dad reportedly died in prison and nineteen fourteen. However, there are some historical articles from the Chicago Defender newspaper that have her dad dying as late as nineteen twenty two so big Fancy. But even if her dad and the picture away,
Guardian was appointed to oversee her estate. I think that's kind of interesting to know that whether her parents or alive or dead didn't believe in matter cause. There was gonna, be this white guarding the picture yeah. It was really common at the time and not just for kids, but also for adult Friedmann and native Americans, whose land turned out to be worth something when the oil was discovered, the chicken fender actually called it. The birth of a new kind of shark quote the oil The Chicago defender actually called it the birth of a new kind of shark. Called the greatest gamblers, which is about american oil exploration and its by a woman named Ruth Sheldon Knolls, Sir Ector was and if the lucky people in these situations, others were cheated out of their lands or even worse, and this is really sad. But the book relates the story of two other black friends who had land, allotments and gland pool. The passage reads: these
luckless waves were murdered in a shack mind with dynamite by group of whites, who are ready to claim their wealth with forged documents and false airs. So the situation definitely could have been worse, but even then things weren't really going well, but all the fun thereafter had another stroke of luck, and that was when some people included special agent further and W C p and the? U S. Children's bureau started Looking into the mismanagement of her stay and early nineteen fourteen so start, can around and realizing something with definite wrong here also around the same time, newspapers heard about the little girl story and this photo of her standing in front of the dirty shanty where she lives started. Circulating in the billina. Is that neither the photo earlier today, it's very fat and pathetic. Looking this poor little girl in a town her dress, standing in front of her her little
anti morose expression very adorable, although very sad. So after this investigation started and doubly cp got heavily involved in it and started advocating on her behalf. In fact, people like W e b d, boys, the head of the underway cp. He got interested in her case and really got actively involved in it. So by October nineteen fourteen they actually manage to get rector out of Oklahoma and into school. There's some disk can see again over exactly what sort of schooling she received. According to the car this record show that she was at the children School Tusky Institute from December nineteen fourteen two September, nineteen fifteen. To Washington himself has said This made the arrangements for her admission and oversaw her education there and then later she went to and graduated from Lincoln High School in Kansas City, but some others to say that she went to high school and then attended Tuskegee University. So
again just a difference and I think it may even be semantics here. You know what we call to ski today as opposed to what they called it and passed on and so forth, but who definitely we do know that she did attend tusky at some point, but I didn't exactly solve problems, and that is partly because the for managing her stay, we're doing a very good job of it and the people who are trying to help her couldn't get that control away from her White Guardian, They did manage to get her a little bit, though they they managed to get her about a thousand dollars a month and some better close to where animal he County court oversaw her estate a little more carefully. So there were some benefits to having all this attention. From the media and from the until they cp people,
ever just kept trying to get control of her estate during this time, even while she was at Tuskegee, she said to have received hundreds of letters from white suitors who wanted to marry her when she came of age. She got about twenty from Germany, for example, when her story ended up in a paper there and people were just, basing their love and wanted to get married to her so that they could have her fortune. So the people looking out for her or understandably concerned by all of these declarations of love pouring Annie another, this young girl. Be led astray and in fact the black press called on the National Federation of women's clubs to make sure that thorough, wasn't quote honey. any love affairs by failures and grafter, but on the other hand, she becomes the well educated and incur to marry one of her own race, she's gonna be taken advantage of even further,
she was lucky that she had people to look out for her. She managed to dodge these overtures and makes it to age. Eighteen, she's, finally of age he's not a minor anymore, so she gets some action. To her fortune, clear exactly how much of her estate that she ultimately received a tooth, and for article in the southeast. Missourians says that she eventually got three million. However Chicago Defender Peace said. Was really no exact figure available, so kind of fluctuates, which you see of what she got: a substantial sum that, regardless of what the exact figure was back at nineteen, she bought this huge mansion at two thousand EAST twelve street in Kansas City Missouri, and that's where sheep saddled with her family. They finally could move out of the more humbler a birth they had been living in and it seem like things were finally looking up for her. You know she's getting to use this money. She's though, luckily
but then, unfortunately, Missouri change its legal majority age from eighteen to twenty one. So far, thereof, but your back to being a minor again. So at this point, her white quote friends- and you see that written that way, a lot of times were referring to her friends, quotas and quote in Oklahoma, semi these once again stepped into the picture they they stepped up to take advantage of her situation, and specifically a guy named Jim Collins, petition the court for guardianship of Sarah and said simply that she wasn't competent enough to monitor estate, even though she had attended high school and was educated. A judge and a white court. However, at that point denied his petition after reviewing everything, he really felt that She had handled everything. Well, his exact quote was that she hands over the more than seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of property. She owns with such astuteness, and he also
that she was mentally sound enough to not need a guardian and complemented her halogens and thrift. So talk about that threat. a little that. Finally, though, with this judges, ruling rector was able to control what was rightfully hers and Now you know the judges assessment wasn't totally are lethal threat five year. We don't know too much about her adult life, that what we do know is that she wasn't exactly conservative with her fortune. She loved fancy car cars and she left to drive them really fast. She bought a limo automobile and assessed, pleaded? Lincoln S offer plated pretty family just wanna like emphasise that for everybody there is obsessed with the silver plate at Lincoln every one night I kind of death. I guess I'm just wondering me: what are you dude, I keep her silver planted car. Looking guided polish, yeah. Well, if you
you have to work than she wouldn't of her time in our hands and we receive the polish or cover a lot. I don't know driving around the block, regardless she's to race around town, a lot in both the middle and the silver plate at Lincoln, and this was a time when it wasn't all common for african american women to be behind the wheel, so kind of breaking down some boundaries right off the bat she also live clothes. She apparently had a taste for european gowns and she was also a frequent customer downtown jeweller. So she, like diamonds, ass, well ass. She liked fancy thing, though, at times, she married, a guy named Kenneth Campbell, who eventually became a partner of a very successful local african american business or a business man named homer, be Robert through interestingly, was whatever may be the first African American Otto dealer in the United States. I'm guessing that cannot Campbell shared fairly love of of the silver
Maybe so maybe that's how she got her car and she picked him up one day so Aaron Kenneth, they threw lavish parties at their home retaining the likes of musicians Duke Ellington and count Bessie and boxers like Joe Louis and Jack Johnson, so definitely different from the other millionairess we discussed earlier in the podcast. Madame see, J Walker, Walker spent out of her money on philanthropy how some sources do say that, in addition to having her limo and driver take her three kids to school, rector also had limo and the chauffeur take some neighbour, kids to local a school. So now we ll make the and I mean I can't help you think a little of Madame Fiji Walkers daughter too. I think she was sort of known more further the high life hanging out with with fancy people in buying If anything, it was a player in the Harlem Harlem Renaissance. Very definitely, though, you know they baggage between
two women, their kind of skirting both world, yet they both skirt skirted both worlds and they both made a difference in their communities kind of in their own way. At first people in a book called take up the black man's burden, which is about cancer cities african american community, in its by Charles equal to her. He notes how after you, for wealth, at least in the nineteen twenties, to overcome obstacles facing other African Americans at the time. So what this means, one example of how she did this was by ignoring Jim Crow conventions, are basically ignoring them in downtown clothing stores. She was one of few, and maybe the only african american woman who could try on her clothes before purchasing them. I think that's pretty amazing. I mean that sounds like a small thing, but that could make a really big difference and how people in your community were perceive that
a lot of sources indicate that rector ended up spending a lot of her estate, and I mean I guess, that's not too hard to imagine with all of these car than european clothing and jewels and the fancy how's that wording to the southeast monsieur an article that due in large part, not this fine taste, but to her taste for gambling. Yes, she ended up having to sell her mansion and her husband divorced her according to some sources. She also ended at moving back to Oklahoma for a time with her kids and passed away eventually in nineteen sixty seven. So I know that seems likely just kind of Russia the end of her life but, as we said, there's really no definitive by fee out there about her, so the details are pretty fuzzy yeah Canada. glamorous funding and now four millionairess, yes, but it does seem like her kind of triumph- was not really suffering the same fate that the other black children, during
time in Oklahoma, Dan, William becoming a poster child for this problem, but here the land problem in helping other kids get there there right. yeah and she time she got to kind of live, how she wanted ass. She wanted. You know she said the where the when end, that's something definite, so there may be a little more research in the works about her. The southeast Missouri article that we reference a lot in the story is actually about a woman named Jerry Sanders has done a lot of research on directors, life and I think she has written a little like a chapter in a book about homer, be Roberts, the man that we mentioned before, and I know that there are, is doing research on herself lay. There will be some kind of definitive biography soon in ITALY. I would be grateful to hear a little more of their reactors and involve come in, I think you re mentioning earlier that I reminded you of Ellen Craft a little back. You know it's clearly Ellen
story she's the one in the amazing disguise she. the wind trying to keep her identity under wraps that When we read her narrative, we don't get too much of that, and I mean a kind of felt the same way with this story. Clearly thereafter she's the central figure, but we know much about her you're. The only direct quote I saw from her was announced Southeast Missouri article in it relates how she. pulled over sometimes for speeding and defiantly say to the officers who pulled her over. Do you know who I am, I like that, I think that's pretty only. I guess if you're gonna leave just one quoted one available, but the good one yeah displays and self confidence that she had, and I mean any kind of says, put the stories about doing. I am yes, people knew she was, and that was a big deal, the nineteen twenties and how her, for you guys know who she is here I mean I I had never heard of her before, though.
We then an interesting story to learn about yeah, one, that we want to learn more about and not just her story, as we said that the other children who are in the same situation as her in Oklahoma during this time period. So I think there was another little boy named any Tucker who also made some money and managed to escape in kidnapped or murdered, or you know otherwise separated from his fortune. So if you know any story is related to this one or anything else to add about Kansas City in the nineteen twenties, you can write us at history, podcast, Hasta, forks, dot, com. You can look at porn facebook and were also on twitter. It missed in history, if you want to learn a little bit more about
how million dollars can be made. We actually have an article on our website called how to make a million dollars, and you can look it up by visiting our website and taking out into the Homepage W W W. Don't how stuff extent com for more on this and dozens of other topics for the house to work that come to learn more about the pond cast on the palm cast icon in the upper right corner of the house of work. That has a rise download it today, and I do. I am Bobby Brown welcomed Ipod has beyond the beauty,
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