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Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America Hardcover – January 7, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 6–8—When Sarah Rector turned 18 in 1920, the young black woman had amassed a fortune estimated at $1 million. In telling her story, Bolden makes a largely unknown portion of American history accessible to young readers. Rector and her family were "Creek freedmen," black citizens of the Creek Indian nation. When the Creeks were forced to resettle west of the Mississippi in the 1800s, each one received a land allotment. Sarah's contained rich oil deposits, making her enormously wealthy. As a result, there was great media interest in her whereabouts and lifestyle, though much of the reporting was highly inaccurate and speculative. When she disappeared, the black-owned newspaper the Chicago Defender and the NAACP even suggested that Sarah had been kidnapped and that her legal guardians were profiting at her expense. All of this was untrue. In telling Rector's story, Bolden admittedly had to deal with gaps in information. Yet, piecing together the facts clearly reflects Bolden's skill as a history writer-her rigorous questioning of documents; her own clearly stated position on what the "facts" mean; and her extensive use of visual material, such as newspaper articles, maps, paintings, and photographs. In an author's note, Bolden tells how she first learned about Sarah, how she researched her life, and how-in the process-she found evidence that was contrary to what she expected. This book will be extremely useful to teachers and librarians seeking material to align with Common Core State Standards dealing with the craft of writing of informational text. Pair it with Bolden's Maritcha (Abrams, 2005), another book that deals with the challenges of writing history when there are gaps in available historical evidence.—Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York

From Booklist

*Starred Review* When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, young Sarah Rector was among the African American members of the Creek nation who were granted allotments of land. From a poor farming family, Sarah was 12 years old when an oil well drilled on her land became a gusher. A guardian was appointed to manage her rapidly increasing fortune until she came of age, and newspapers began to print poorly investigated and sometimes alarming stories about her. Rector’s biography takes some unexpected turns as Bolden follows leads that slant the story one way, only to discover that the truth lies in another direction. In this meticulously researched book, she separates fact from fiction as she traces the relevant history of the Creek nation, land allotments in early twentieth-century Oklahoma, and Rector’s life. Part of the story becomes Bolden’s challenging search for reliable information, and she integrates some of those personal details into the narrative. Along the way, the book offers intriguing glimpses of American life during Rector’s time period. Handsome design and excellent production enhance the effectiveness of the many archival illustrations, which include photos, maps, and legal documents. Like Scott Reynolds Nelson and Marc Aronson’s Ain’t Nothing But a Man (2007), this handsome book illuminates the process of historical research as well as the enigmatic figure in the spotlight. Grades 6-9. --Carolyn Phelan
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 1050L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1419708465
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419708466
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Blue on January 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is very informative and perfect for young girls (particularly, young African-American girls) hungry for information about girls in history. It is also a good coffee table book to evoke conversation about this ofen "forgotten" piece of history.

The pictorials are really impressive!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By kimimac on January 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good, but very short, book recounting the history of the Indian Territory land allotments and newly freed African American slaves.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bobby Ray on March 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I read about this book in Essence magazine, so I check it out at my local library. I read it in hour, Its not a novel but a short history book that should be read in every school. Not only does it talk about Sarah Rector and her family but the history of Oklahoma. I learned a lot by reading Sarah Rector's story, I had never hear for her until now. A must read for us history buffs. My only gripe will be the author didnt provide a picture of Rectors birth/death certificate or funeral program, which she had on hand via the book footnotes.
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Format: Hardcover
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 Chasing Lincoln’s Killer (Swanson, 2009). But this book is not a “can’t-put-it-down” adventure. Instead Bolden, uses Sarah Rector’s story as a frame for bringing to life the political and legal experiences of African Americans born and/or living in the Indian Territory and the state of Oklahoma as the culture of community-shared-land shifted to individuals owning land. Sarah Rector, a “Creek freedman” and, therefore, a citizen of an Indian nation, was eligible at birth to be allotted a piece of land. Her parents pursued this and then, through a lease to an oil driller, Sarah became very rich. Except that African American parents were not trusted by the government to be guardians of their children’s estates; generally, a white man had to be assigned. Except that many of these guardians were crooked. Except that…

A central theme in this book is how misunderstandings lead to unfair judgments or distorted views – in many arenas including those of journalists for The Defender in Chicago as well as lawyers for the NAACP in NYC as well as the judgment the author, Bolden, made about what kind of guardian Sarah had been assigned until she dug further into the primary sources available.

This is a case study in the limitations of what we know – in the present and regarding the past.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Divivian Jerome-mcguire on May 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a detailed account of african american life on "indian territory" (modern day Midwest). Her accounts are substianted with valid evidence. This is not anecdotal!!!It shed lights on the origin of mundane terms i.e wildcats, boomers, sooners (all college basketball and football teams). Truely gives a accurate account of what it was like being an african American in that time in that territory, while simultaneously highlighing how a fortunate african american girl was able to accumulate a substantial amount of wealth. Last but not least, it teaches us lessons we can all learn from! suitable for children as well as adults.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Aten Akhe on June 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is nicely written and informative. It is a quick read and the reader is enlightened to the unearthed facts and findings surrounding how Sarah became the richest black girl in America. With any story of a human life, there are tragedies, wrong doings and misguided paths, but also with life there are moments and experiences of hope and happiness--this account reflects that. I would recommend this--it's part of American history which needs to be contemplated and shared.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Conflict Pro on August 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent read. Great example of the many travesties of justice that happened to many Blacks, Native Americans and Mixed Bloods in early Oklahoma and Indian Territories and which later became the state of Oklahoma. My family was not fortunate as Sarah, my forefathers were swindled as were many others of the time.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By PDXbibliophile on March 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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 confuse middle grade readers who are new to non-fiction. Curious readers may be inspired to find out more about The Trail of Tears, the Creek Indian nations, the all Black towns of Oklahoma, western expansion or the Great Depression.
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