In 1914, 12-year-old Oklahoman Sarah Rector attracted attention when it became known that the oil found on land allotted to her by treaty was worth a fortune.
When Native Americans were forced from lands in the American South, many took their slaves with them to Indian Territory, where they became citizens after the Civil War and, as such, received land allotments. Most blacks farmed the land they received, even though it was often a difficult life. When oil was discovered in Oklahoma territory, the wrangling over the land and profits of minors like Sarah intensified as guardians, some unscrupulous, were appointed to oversee financial affairs. In Sarah’s case, the scrutiny included commentary in the black press and even questions raised by the NAACP. This little-known episode demonstrates the confluence of various threads in U.S. history, among them slavery, shifting policy toward Indians and westward expansion. Drawing extensively on primary sources, Bolden has done an admirable job in simplifying a complex situation for young readers. More importantly, she shows how intertwined seemingly disparate historical factors can be. As, unfortunately, there are no first-person accounts left by Sarah Rector, readers don’t really get to know the person who triggered the controversy, but the lively narrative makes clear the tenor of the period. This handsome volume with its many photographs is carefully sourced and has a helpful glossary, illustration credits and index.
Bolden admirably tells a complex story while modeling outstanding research strategy, as her insightful author’s note attests. (Nonfiction 10-14)