Princess Sarah Culberson, an adopted woman, went on a journey to find her birth parents. She discovered that she was royalty. Culberson traced her roots to a tribe in Bumpe, Sierra Leone.
Culberson began searching for her birth family at the age of 28. She was adopted and raised by a white family in West Virginia. She learned that her birth mother died when she was 11, and her father lived in Sierra Leone.
After paying a private investigator, a woman from Maryland called Culberson. That woman turned out to be her aunt. A man who is her uncle also spoke to her and revealed that her birth father was royalty. In fact, her father was a chief of the royal family from the Mende tribe.
In 2004, she took a trip to Sierra Leone, NBC reported. Sierra Leone is known for its beaches. However, in Bumpe, the town where Culberson’s family is from, life was much bleaker. Bumpe had been one of many targets of a civil war that lasted for a decade and had only ended a couple of years before she arrived. The damage could be seen and felt.
“It was overwhelming. It was a reality check. This is what people have been living through. This is my family. How is this princess going to be part of this community and make a difference in the country?” Culberson said.
The newly-minted royal hit the ground running.
My dad gave me this beautiful green #African dress. When I got to the village, all of the women came forward wearing the same green dress I had been given, and they were singing “We’re preparing for Sarah” in Mende. ❤️🇸🇱https://t.co/MUERMf4mFX
.#SierraLeone #AfricanPrincess pic.twitter.com/fG3T5C3fs3
— Princess Sarah Culberson of Sierra Leone (@iamprincesssc) May 31, 2019
Culberson has launched the nonprofit organization Sierra Leone Rising which is responsible for rebuilding Bumpe High School, installed solar lanterns, and helped with clean drinking water efforts.
“I learned that being a princess is about being committed to and responsible for your community.”
A decade later, Disney has a movie in the works about the heir to the throne. A Princess Found is expected to outline Culberson’s life, before and after royalty. A Disney spokesperson said that the project was still in development back in June.
For African Americans considering tracing their lineage, Culberson has one piece of advice– be gracious with yourself.