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A symbol of wisdom and learning from the past to build for the future (Literal meaning: Go Back to Fetch It)

Sankofa means "go back to the past in order to build for the future," or we should not forget our past when moving ahead. Sankofa is a realization of self and spirit. It represents the concepts of self-identity, redefinition and vision. It symbolizes an understanding of one's destiny and collective identity of the larger cultural group.

Sankofa is symbolic of the spiritual mind-set and cultural awakening African people were experiencing in the decades after independence on the African continent. The Sankofa bird is used to represent Sankofa. The symbol is of a bird turning its head backward and its long beak is turned in the direction of its tail.

-The Adinkra Dictionary by W. Bruce Willis


2024 Winner Terry McMillan

M. J. Smith of T. McMillan

Terry McMillan is the #1 NYT Bestselling author of 12 books, including WAITING TO EXHALE and HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK, which were both adapted into major motion pictures. Her debut novel MAMA won the Doubleday New Voices Award as well as The American Book Award, and her second novel DISAPPEARING ACTS became an HBO film in 2000. Her sixth novel, A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT, became a Lifetime Original Movie starring Whoopi Goldberg. In addition to winning the NAACP Image Award and the Essence Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award, all of Terry’s novels have been New York Times Bestsellers, including her latest release, IT’S NOT ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE.  

Sankofa Freedom Award

Award Criteria

The Sankofa Freedom Award was established in 2005 by the African American Resource Center and the Tulsa Library Trust.  The purpose of this biennial award is to recognize a nationally prominent author whose life's work positively addresses the range and complexity of cultural, economic and political issues affecting the greater African American community.

The award consists of an engraved plaque and a prize of $10,000. The recipient will give a public address on the day of the awards presentation.

A Sankofa Author Selection Committee appointed by the AARC Coordinator determines the candidates for the award, without receipt of any applications from authors, publishers or outside nominators.

2022 Ceremony

The 2022 Sankofa Freedom Award Ceremony was presented as a live webinar on February 12, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. To watch a recording, please click the following link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XX8GOmQyW0&t=39s


For more information about the Sankofa Freedom Award, please reach out to the African American Resource Center Coordinator Larissa McNeil, at larissa.mcneil@tulsalibrary.org or 918.549.7650. 


2024 Ceremony: SAVE THE DATE!

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