Author Sojourner Kincaid Rolle, wearing bright yellow smocked dress with Africa-style motif, holds up her book 'Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem' whose cover features head profiles of three people of color.
Author Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle holds up her book 'Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem' as she stands in the Falkner Gallery at Santa Barbara's Main Library. Credit: Courtesy photo

Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emerita Sojourner Kincaid Rolle has received national recognition for her illustrated children’s book “Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem,” the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture has announced.

In commemoration of Black History Month, the School Library Journal (SLJ) has published a list of “15 Nonfiction and Fiction Titles for Young Readers About Slavery in the United States,” which highlights the significance of Rolle’s book.

Additional authors on the list include Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones, Newbury Award winner Renée Watson, and Grammy Award winner Rhiannon Giddens.

SLJ said its recommended titles “cover some of the experiences lived by the enslaved in this country, from 1619 (the first slave ship) to 1865 (Juneteenth),” and can offer a “nuanced presentation of major historical events of Black history.”

SLJ praised Rolle’s writing for its “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.”

“Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem” was illustrated by Alex Bostic, the renowned artist who created the 2022 Edmonia Lewis Commemorative Forever stamp for the USPS Black Heritage Series.

The book has received national acclaim from Kirkus Reviews, PBS, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist, where it received a starred review and Editor’s Choice designation. It is available through Rolle’s website.

Kincaid Rolle served as Santa Barbara Poet Laureate from 2015-17, and has been succeeded by Enid Osborn, Laure-Anne Bosselaar and Emma Trelles. The search for the city’s next Poet Laureate is currently underway.

The Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture is a Division of the Community Services Department, serving as the local governmental umbrella for local arts and culture projects and programs. The office represents a longstanding partnership between the county and city of Santa Barbara. For more, visit www.sbac.ca.gov.