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


2022 Winner Walter Mosley

M. Wilson of W. Mosley

Walter Mosley is the author of more than 60 critically-acclaimed books of fiction including his most recent Blood Grove, nonfiction, memoir and plays. His work has been translated into 25 languages. From the first novel he published, Devil in a Blue Dress with its protagonist Easy Rawlins, Mosley’s work has explored the lives of Black men and women in America—past, present and future—in a rich exploration of genre with his latest including the short story collection, The Awkward Black Man. He has had several of his books adapted for film and tv including Devil in a Blue Dress, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and the forthcoming Apple TV+ production of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. His short fiction and nonfiction essays have been published in a wide range of outlets including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Nation. He is also a writer and an executive producer on the John Singleton FX show, “Snowfall.”

He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, The Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, a Grammy®, several NAACP Image awards, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2020 he was named the recipient of the Robert Kirsch Award for lifetime achievement from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and was awarded the Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award from the National Book Foundation.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mosley now lives in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.


To view a recording of this year's Sankofa Freedom Award, visit the TCCL YouTube Channel 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.

Previous Winners

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.