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Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America

3.06 of 5 stars 3.06  ·  rating details  ·  160 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Sarah Rector was once famously hailed as “the richest black girl in America.” Set against the backdrop of American history, her tale encompasses the creation of Indian Territory, the making of Oklahoma, and the establishment of black towns and oil-rich boomtowns.
Rector acquired her fortune at the age of eleven. This is both her story and that of children just like her: o
Hardcover, 80 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Harry N. Abrams (first published January 1st 2014)
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Amy Carr
While this had the potential to be a really fascinating read, it was grossly underdeveloped and the angle that the author used to tell the story from fell flat. This is a part of history I knew nothing about so it was intriguing to learn about the events occurring. But the author builds this huge suspense about an individual for which there is virtually no known information about. It was really strange and disappointing. The last 1/4 of the book is credits...not even enough meat to fill a whole ...more
This title has such a fascinating hook that I was ultimately disappointed. Yes, the story of guardianship for black and Native children and the management of their lands is illuminating and rarely told, but the hook that Sarah Rector is missing never amounts to much. Rector is eventually found and there is a little that is known of her life at different periods, but not a whole lot. So the mystery is never really solved but isn't much of a mystery to begin with. Unfortunately, the plan to use th ...more
This book is rather misleading on multiple levels. For one, about half of the book is back matter, so it's way shorter a read (officially) than you'd think. That's not necessarily bad, but it's not what I was expecting. It's also not really much of a biography. That's completely understandable, given that the author had trouble finding out any information at all on Rector. What this book is really about is what happened to Native American-owned slaves after they were freed and how white men took ...more
Really under-developed. If it had been presented as a story about how one poor black girl in Oklahoma became wealthy, I might have been more forgiving. However, the title and blurb on the back suggest this is would be the fascinating story of a wealthy black girl gone missing. It was not. She was never missing.

Half the book consists of source notes and information about the Native Americans (and their slaves) being relocated to Indian Territory from the South. The rest, about 35 pages, tells th
Monica Edinger
I found the lack of much about Sarah herself made this a challenging read for me. I realize it was what I wanted versus what the book is so I will eventually go back and reread it with a more open stance. I do appreciate Bolden's taking on this interesting situation and found many of the primary sources fascinating.
In 1914, 12-year-old Sarah Rector earned $15,000 per month (the equivalent of $300,000 today), making her the "richest black girl in America." Bolden weaves together Sarah's rise from rags to riches against a rich backdrop of American history that illuminates racial injustice, crime, corruption, guardianship laws, the creation of Indian Territory, and the birth of Oklahoma. Plentiful photos, maps, and sidebars bring Sarah's story to life, and the in-depth back matter--which includes a glossary, ...more
Great research oddly presented. There's a lot in this book, including excellent primary-source based research into some usually neglected topics. The presentation, however, is off putting and detrimental--in trying to contextualize Sarah's story, the author winds up presenting two books in one, one on the Native peoples' forced relocation and one about the individual circumstances surrounding Sarah Rector's fortune and its management. While it's certainly a reasonable tactic to tell a larger sto ...more
This book provides a fascinating look into how a poor black girl became a millionaire. Sarah Rector was born in 1902 in Indian Territory where she and her family were black members of a nation of Creek Indians. They were call "Creek freedmen". When the Indian Territory became the state Oklahoma, members of the Creek Nation were given land allotments of 160 acres. When Sarah was five years old she received her allotment and within a few years it proved to be a very profitable producer of oil. Bol ...more
Richie Partington
Richie's Picks: SEARCHING FOR SARAH RECTOR: THE RICHEST BLACK GIRL IN AMERICA by Tonya Bolden, Abrams, January 2014, 80p., ISBN: 978-1-4197-0846-6

"They couldn't pick a better time to start in life--
It ain't too early and it ain't too late!
Starting as a farmer with a brand new wife--
Soon be livin' in a brand new state!
Brand new state -- gonna treat you great!
Gonna give you barley, carrots and pertaters,
Pasture for the cattle, spinach and termaters,
Flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom,
Erica Shipow
An interesting start, but there just wasn't enough there to make a full book, so it felt like Bolden was stretching for a story. Sarah Rector was apparently one of many children in this situation (poor black children earning money off of oil-rich land), and I think if Bolden had focused on this group of children and had used Sarah Rector as one of a multitude of characters/storylines, the book would have been much stronger. I do think Bolden did her research, but she seemed to be grasping at str ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
While the promotional materials imply this book is about the disappearance of Sarah Rector, her short disappearance is barely mentioned. This book describes the plight of Sarah Rector and other wealthy minors who owned oil-rich land allotments. These children were often abused and raised in poor conditions while their court-appointed guardians plundered the children's earnings and estates.

An interesting topic that is little covered in history courses, I think this book provides a great resources
This is a book full of information, photos, sidebars, and notes. There is everything you wanted to know about the Oklahoma oil boom, the African-Americans who lived in Indian Territory during the early 1900's, and good people and bad people, of both races. I thought this would read more like the other informational books for middle school students that I love, but unfortunately, this book left me with more questions than answers. The narrative does not flow like a story, in fact, it reads more l ...more
What's here is good, but it feels very fragmentary. Several times over the course of the book the reader is told "We don't have the rest of the story about this." Even the names of key characters are speculative, and it takes the entire length of the book for the author to get around to telling us that one of the supposed villains of the story was actually a good guy. That was just strange.
After a while, the semi-informative text becomes incredibly frustrating, especially since the evidence the
An interesting if incomplete and oddly titled slice of history. I didn't know anything about the convoluted relationship between the oilmen and the native and black populations in Oklahoma. That part was fascinating. What felt lacking is that there wasn't a whole lot of Sarah Rector, lost or otherwise. She was more the center point of the story than an actual part of it. Bolden mentions that in her research she was unable to find anything written by Sarah herself. Perhaps if the process of the r ...more
Not good. The narrative was wandering, such that it barely kept my interest. Again, I feel like Bolden has taken an impossibly specific event that is under documented and tried to create a fluff narrative out of wispy strands of facts.
The book didn't live up to the mystery of the title - spoiler alert - Sarah was never even missing! She had plenty of money for a while, but wasn't even well-off when she died.

Major let down. Do not recommend - unless you like to be tantalized with sensational ti
A catchy title but the rest of the book did not grab me. The sentence level writing in the first chapter was confusing to me, especially the pronouns. I felt like I needed to be back in fifth grade diagramming sentences to understand who did what. The time period maps are good time period photographs but were hard for me to understand, let alone a child. Otherwise and interesting story that did not live up to the catchy title. I felt like the "search" did not develop enough suspense or otherwise ...more
This one seemed anticlimactic.

Sarah Rector was a black girl born to Creek freedmen (free blacks of the Creek Nation) in 1902. Like other relocated Creek and members of other tribes, each person in her family born before a certain date was entitled to a parcel of land of about 160 acres.

Sarah's allotment turned up some black gold gushers.

Then the papers reported this newly rich child missing...then not missing. The judge who oversaw the management of her estate responded to a letter from W.E.B. D
New book for late-intermediate and middle grade students – Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America (Bolden, 2014). Let me start by saying that Tonya Bolden has become a “go to” author for me; her research is meticulous, thorough and her writing is appropriate for her audience with rigorous and rich content. I was surprised by this book, though. From reading summaries, I thought I was in for an adventure. Maybe an adventure akin to The Impossible Rescue (Sandler, 2012) or Ch ...more
Chris Murray
Summary (
Sarah Rector was once called “the richest black girl in America.” Set against the backdrop of American history, her tale encompasses the creation of Indian Territory, the making of Oklahoma, and the establishment of black towns and oil-rich boomtowns.
Rector acquired her fortune at the age of eleven. This is both her story and that of children just like her: one filled with ups and downs amid bizarre goings-on and crimes perpetrated by greedy and corrupt adults.
I love
An excellent non-fiction narrative looks at the mystery of the rich girl, Sarah Rector. Born in 1902 as a freedman in the Creek, Indian Territory, Sarah was not destined for any great fortune or wealth. Her parents were farmers and grew corn and cotton. Being born in the Creek before March 4, 1906 meant that they were eligible for land allotment for the members of the Creek Nation. At the age of 11, however, Sarah was worth more than a million dollars. She now lived in Oklahoma, the 46th sate of ...more
Annie Oosterwyk
I was very excited to read this book, both because of it's beautiful cover and artwork and because I've loved so many books by Tonya Bolden. I was disappointed because it felt like the title went one way and the book another. It ended up feeling like a non-story, at least concerning Sarah Rector.
The more interesting aspect for me was the period of American history covered by the book and the set-up for how African-Americans could find themselves in this situation (becoming oil rich despite bein
Sandy Stiles
This was a great book that wove together many strands of the history of early 1900's Oklahoma, focusing on one girl who becomes very wealthy from oil found on her land allotment. There were many illuminating aspects to this non-fiction work for me, which made it a very interesting read. Some of the things I knew nothing about include the ideas of "Creek freedmen" as well as Creek slaves who were both black people, but of different status living with the Creek tribe; children being eligible for l ...more
Sarah Rector was due an allotment of 160 acres in the government breakup of land in what was formerly known as Indian Territory right around 1907. Although her acreage was split among two parcels, she became the richest African-American girl in the US when productive wells were drilled on her allotment.
This is the story of how Sarah Rector was treated and to some extent, what became of her in later years. It is an interesting story and I particularly appreciated the author's openness about her
Mar 06, 2014 Beverly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 10-14
Recommended to Beverly by: Kirkus Starred Review
This is not just a story of a very rich and reclusive young woman (11 million in today's $$, by her 18th birthday), it is also a fascinating look at post-Civil War Indian Territory politics, the beginnings of the Oklahoma oil boom of the early 1900's, and Jim Crow attitudes and laws in Oklahoma. Fact filled and supported with numerous primary source photos and documents, Searching for Sarah Rector almost reads like
an in-depth magazine article. It is a very quick read, but its rambling format may
Katherine Schmitt
I have mixed feelings about this book. There is some interesting information in here on a topic that I knew nothing about. BUT, this book is very misleading in the way it starts. It tries to hook you in with a story about a missing girl, and then it turns out she wasn't really ever missing, and that ends up not being what the book is about at all. You then have to shift your expectations entirely, which ends up being a bit of a let-down. Once I got over that, I was able to appreciate the informa ...more
This nonfiction book takes a detailed look at a period in history that most of us know nothing about. It is the history of Indian Territory and the slaves who worked and lived there. It is the story of Oklahoma becoming a state, the establishment of black towns, and the changes that the oil boom brought to that area. It is also the story of one girl who is caught up in this history, made rich by the circumstances, and just like many other black children trapped by the corruption of those around ...more
Read for Librarian Book Group
This book was confusing, mostly because it tried to tell Sarah Rector's story, which was interesting. I think the framing device was not right as (this is not really a spoiler) it seems Sarah Rector was never actually missing. I found it good for details about striking it rich off of oil in Oklahoma, the former slaves of Indians and also the many swindlers who wanted to take the money, but the whole book never gelled.
Karen Arendt
This was an interesting book. There was plenty of detail and primary source photographs and documents to look at. There were twists and turns in the story as readers learn about Sarah Rector's life, her guardianship, and he amassed fortune. Not much information presented is directly from Sarah, though, since she was a very private person. I would have enjoyed learning a little more about her life.
This is a fascinating look at history that I have to say I had not really heard (I was a history major)but I would say I wish there had actually been more to do with Sarah herself. I admit I think Bolden runs up against that wall of unfortunately not having an piece of historical documents in Sarah's voice and tries very hard to speculate about the issues surrounding Sarah's unique wealth and status in society. I wish it had not been padded out so much by other's experiences but I still am grate ...more
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