Sarah Culberson was adopted by a white couple when she was one year old.
When she grew up, she received a master’s degree in theater from the American Academy of Music; became an actor and appeared in the film “American Dream”; became a dancer and served on the board of directors of a dance company. But at the age of 28, she hired a private detective to find her biological parents, only to discover by accident that she was actually a real princess.
In 2004, she was grandly welcomed back to her home country for the first time. The people shouted: Welcome the princess home!
In the spring of 1976, a mixed-race child was born in West Virginia. Her name was Sarah.
Her biological parents gave her away to a local white couple.
She felt different as a child, the only dark-skinned child in her family.
Often asked by white family friends, “Is this girl black? Have you recently sunbathed?”
Fortunately, she was adopted by a highly educated, middle-class family. Her father was an anatomy professor at West Virginia University and her mother was a special education teacher at an elementary school.
She had two older sisters and adoptive parents who loved her and never kept her background a secret: She had a white mother and a father who was probably of West African descent.
At the age of 21, she began to search for her birth mother with questions and clues from her adoptive parents.
After a year, she finally got the exact information about her birth mother.
Sarah’s biological mother worked in administration at West Virginia University.
Unfortunately, at the age of 11, Sarah died of cancer.
Sarah has never met her real mother and never will.
The news of her birth mother’s death leaves her devastated, convinced that her father was an irresponsible “deceitful and philandering man,” and fearful of the same regret she would face if she found him.
What happened to Sarah in the spring of 1976, when a white man and a black man gave birth to her?
She won’t know.
However, individual life’s insistence on its origin and blood relationship is indelible.
In 2004, Sarah realized that the mystery of her birth had always been in her mind.
If she gave up her search for the truth, she would never let go.
So the 28-year-old hired a private investigator to help her find her biological father.
She had imagined many things: what if she couldn’t find him or he died? What if the biological father refuses to recognize him?
But look for close process is unusual however smooth, the result is unusual also amazing, no matter how she all think of……
Soon, private investigators found a home address in Maryland where her biological father’s brother lived.
She plucked up her courage to send a letter.
Four days later, she got a call.
A woman’s voice came on the other end, “How are you, Sarah? I’m your aunt, and we’ve just heard from you.”
Just then, her uncle grabbed the phone, excited: “finally found you! Sarah, do you know who you are?”
“I’m not Sarah, am I?” Sarah asked.
And then he got even more excited. He couldn’t wait to say the words that would change Sarah’s life.
“Your great-grandfather was the chief of our tribe, and you are the princess!”
Sarah is of royal descent. Her great-grandfather was the supreme chieftain of Sierra Leone’s National Mend tribe, her father was the tribe’s Prince Joseph, and her grandfather and uncle now rule a state of 70,000.
Through her uncle, she finally got in touch with her biological father in West Africa.
Eventually, she decided to travel to Sierra Leone to meet her biological father.
The journey from the US to West Africa, which was supposed to be just a journey of recognition, changed Sarah’s life completely.
As she stepped off the plane, she saw a dark, strange and infinitely friendly face facing her with nervous, bewildered eyes.
Her biological father was guilty. “Please forgive me. When you were adopted, you changed your name, everything changed, and I really don’t know how to find you.”
In the 1970s, her father came to West Virginia as an exchange student and met her white mother, who was also a college student.
After two people fell in love, they got pregnant accidentally. They were too young to give a baby a stable life, so they discussed: when the baby was born, they would send her to a good family and give her everything.
The night they met their father, they took a boat on the lake together. The night scenery was beautiful and the feeling of getting together with their loved ones was warm.
The next morning, her father gave her a beautiful green African dress.
She wore the green dress and went back to the family village with her father.
At the entrance to the village, hundreds of people gathered to greet her warmly.
All the women in the village, dressed in identical green dresses, gathered to chant, “Welcome home Sarah!”
For several days there were ceremonies for Sarah’s homecoming.
Sarah had thought she was just coming to see her father and see her home country. She had never expected such an extraordinary reception.
That day, for Sierra Leone’s National Mende tribe, was “the return of the princess.”
She is affectionately known as “Princess Sarah”, but the reality of the princess name is not as glamorous as the movie.
She found that her people had a hard time.
When Sarah arrived, Sierra Leone had just ended 11 years of civil war. The fighting killed 50,000 people and displaced more than 2 million.
Many of the local people had their hands and feet cut off during the war, even children as young as a few years old.
Houses in the village were destroyed, and the school that my grandfather had built was roofed off, with no teaching facilities.
Even a drink of clean water has become an extravagant hope.
Sierra Leone is also one of the world’s least developed countries, the economy is very backward.
It was as if Sarah had been awakened suddenly.
The blood of the connected race led such miserable lives that she could not turn a blind eye.
“I realized that it was my mission as a princess to take this country forward.”
Over the next few years, she joined biological and adoptive families to set up a foundation called Rising Sierra Leone to support education, public health and women’s empowerment in Sierra Leone.
She provides wheelchairs and artificial limbs for the disabled;
She provides local women with reusable sanitary pads.
She rebuilt Bempe High School, which had been devastated by the war;
In the future, she will introduce online classes to local schools, build computer rooms and install solar panels.
Together with other public welfare organizations, she has drilled nine Wells in the area, providing clean water to 12,000 people.
During COVID-19, she led the development of new masks for Africa, encouraged people to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, and distributed buckets, soap and hygiene kits.
Sarah’s adoptive father said: ‘Her love for people was born with her.’
In 2006, she returned to Sierra Leone with her adoptive parents, where she was welcomed to the red carpet again.
In 2009, she wrote a book about her story, called The Return of the Princess, and is set to be made into a film with Hollywood producer Stephanie Allen.
Sarah hopes her story will help local people by encouraging African Americans to find their roots and reconnect with their families.
“We are Africans and for various reasons we have lost touch with our homeland, but that does not change our origin.”
It has been 16 years since Sarah became a princess. Sierra Leone is no longer a place of war. There is clean water, children can go to school, women can work and people have changed their hygiene habits.
Although there is still a big gap with the developed areas, but here, as far as the eye can see, is a vibrant.
Sixteen years later, Sarah’s return has transformed her tribe and the country.
In the future, Sarah plans to return to Africa with her boyfriend.
For Sarah, the title of princess comes not with crowns and wealth, but with responsibility to follow in the footsteps of her great-grandfather and grandfather and carry on what they did for this country.
Her Twitter page reads: ‘Your voice connects the world and makes a difference.‘