At the age of 28, Sarah Culberson began searching for her biological family. Through her search, she found out that she is related to African royalty in Sierra Leonne.
Culberson is from the Mende tribe in Bumpe, Sierra Leone, where she is considered a mahaloi, the child of a paramount chief. This makes Culberson the princess of the Bumpe village. The Mende are one of the two largest ethnic groups in Sierra Leone, accounting for roughly 33 percent of the country’s population.
Culberson noted that her title didn’t mean an inheritance of wealth. Instead, it came with immense responsibility.
“My only guidance of what a princess was what I saw in movies,” Culberson told NBC News during an interview. “[But] it’s really about responsibility. It’s about walking in my great-grandfather’s and grandfather’s footsteps and what they’ve done for the country. I realized that’s my role as a princess to keep moving things forward in the country.
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Culberson and her biological brother Hindo Kposowa launched the Kposowa Foundation, now called Sierra Leone Rising, in 2006 to rebuild Bumpe High School and promote education in the country.
The princess was adopted and raised by a white family in West Virginia, said they are not surprised by her passion to help people.
“Sarah was an outgoing, people-meeting, 1-year-old when we adopted her. She is still that same outgoing person who genuinely loves and enjoys almost everyone she meets,” her adoptive father, James Culberson, said.
Culberson is also a published author. She wrote about her journey in the book A Princess Found, which will serve as the basis of a new movie produced by Stephanie Allain.