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Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  233 Ratings  ·  84 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:
Hardcover, 80 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Harry N. Abrams (first published January 1st 2014)
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Amy Carr
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 biography for young readers attempts to tell the story of Sarah Rector, the richest black girl in America in the early 1900s. The first part of the book is a little slow. The author tells the backstory of Sarah's ancestors, slaves of Creek Indians forced west from Georgia into Indian Territory by the U.S. Government in the 1820s. The backstory is necessary to find out how Sarah got so wealthy. The story is pretty impressive! It's a rags to riches kind of story and an unusual one at that. Th ...more
Chelsea Couillard-Smith
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: jv-nonfiction
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
Sarah Hannah
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
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Julian Abagond
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Aimed at schoolchildren, but a good summary of the facts and the history that it is set in. Does not swallow the sensationalized press stories whole. Tons of period pictures.
Richie Partington
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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,
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: youth_nonfiction
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
Erica Shipow
May 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-nonfiction
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
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
Jun 03, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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
Feb 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 30, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Interesting part of history--had not realized that free blacks living with Native American tribes were often enslaved and that after the Civil War they received land allotments.
Sarah Rector was hailed as a the Richest Black Girl in America. She acquired her fortune at age 11. People viewed her as naïve and dumb because of her age. However those people who thought that way were also trying to take advantage of her wealth. With the help of interviews and documents her story comes to life against the backdrop of American history encompassing Indian territory, oil rich boomtowns and more.

This book is great for grades 3 to 8

Great for black history month and for a display
Amanda Walz
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sunday Cummins
May 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Sharon Purucker
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great account of Sarah Rector's riches. The book is detailed and highlighted with photos and paperwork of the times. The story of Sarah Rector does not seem complete only due to the limited information that is left. It would be nice to read more about her adult life, but that is not the focus of this book.
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
Kelly Bowles
Bolden, T. (2014). Searching for Sarah Rector: the richest black girl in America. New York, NY: Abrams Books.

Citation by: Kelly Bowles

Type of Reference: Biographic Reference

Call Number: B Rec

Content/Scope: A biography targeted to middle school students. Sarah Rector turned 18 in 1920 and had already amassed a fortune of $1 million as part of the “Creek freedmen.” A largely unknown portion of American history comes to life for young readers.

Accuracy/Authority/Bias: Book based on newspaper article
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fascinating story of a lesser-known story in a lesser-known (outside of Oklahoma) historical place and era: the turn-of-the-20th century oil boom in Oklahoma and how one 12-year old black girl became wealthy after oil was found on her land. White guardians were appointed to black minors who owned land like this, either because they were orphans or because their parents weren't deemed educated enough to handle the new wealth and attendant hassles; some guardians were honest but many were not. The ...more
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Author and publisher Tonya Wilyce Bolden was born on March 1, 1959, in New York City to Georgia Bolden, a homemaker, and Willie Bolden, a garment center shipping manager. Bolden grew up in Harlem in a musical family and loved to read; she attended Public M.E.S. 146, an elementary school in Manhattan, and then graduated from the Chapin School, a private secondary school, in Manhattan in 1976. Bolde ...more
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