Poet, historian, teacher, mentor, and civil rights activist Sojourner Kincaid Rolle. | Credit: Courtesy

Former Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Sojourner Kincaid Rolle recently received national recognition with her illustrated children’s book, Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem, which was included in a commemorative Black History Month list published by the School Library Journal celebrating the “15 Nonfiction and Fiction Titles for Young Readers About Slavery in the United States.” 

Rolle — a poet, playwright, educator, and one of the area’s most celebrated living writers — served as the city’s poet laureate from 2015-2017, building on a career of work which honors Black, Indigenous, and Latino culture alongside themes of feminism, peace, and social justice.

Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem was written in 2004 as a poetic and engaging way to teach young readers about the history behind the holiday, which celebrates the end of slavery in the United States in 1865. The book has already received national acclaim from Kirkus Reviews, PBS, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist, where it was included as an Editor’s Choice.

The School Library Journal writes that Rolle’s book “presents historical moments in an accessible way” through Rolle’s poetry, which has a “lyrical feel that evokes a range of emotions, from sadness for the realities of the many hardships still faced right after emancipation, to the hope and resilience of newfound freedom.” All illustrations in the book were done by renowned artist Alex Bostic, who created the 2022 Edmonia Lewis Commemorative Forever stamp for the USPS Black Heritage Series.

Other authors on the list include Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, Newbery Award winner Renée Watson, and Grammy Award winner Rhiannon Giddens.  The rest of the recommended titles offer a “nuanced presentation of major historical events of Black history,” covering experiences of those living under slavery from when the first slave ships arrived in 1619 until word reached the deepest parts of the south in 1865 that, in accordance with the newly signed Emancipation Proclamation, all slaves were now free.

Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem is available at The Book Den and Chaucer’s Books, or online through Rolle’s website, sojournerkincaidrolle.com


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