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Freeman
by Leonard Pitts, Jr.






Freeman: A Liberated Slave In Search Of Family

Listen to the NPR Interview




Forward from this Moment
Selected Columns, 1994–2009 
by Leonard Pitts, Jr.


 



Before I Forget
by Leonard Pitts, Jr.


 


 

Becoming Dad
Black Men and the 
Journey to Fatherhood
by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

 

 


FREEMAN 
BOOK TOUR


May 19 - DC  Launch Party
Marriott Inn and Conference 
Center UMUC
Mount Claire Cafe
Event Time: 5:00 -8:00 pm
3501 University Blvd East, Hyattsville, MD  20783



May 20 - Washington, DC
National Museum of 
American History
Event Time: 2:00 - 4:00 pm
14th Street and 
Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20024


May 26 - Philadelphia, PA
Barnes & Noble
Event Time: 1:00-3:00 pm
Rittenhouse Square
1805 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA  19103 


May 29 - Baltimore, MD
Ivy Bookshop
Event Time: 6:30 pm
6080 Falls Road
Baltimore, MD  21209


May 31 - Richmond, VA
Fountain Bookstore
Event Time: 6:30 pm
1312 E. Cary Street
Richmond, VA  23219


June 2 - Pittsboro, NC
McIntyre's Fine Books & Bookends
Event Time: 11:00 am
2000 Fearrington Village Ctr. Pittsboro, NC  27312


June 3 - Charlotte, NC
Park Road Books
Event Time: 2:00 pm
4139 Park Road
Charlotte, NC  28209


June 4 - Asheville, NC
Malaprop's Bookstore
Event Time: 7:00 pm
55 Haywood Street
Asheville, NC  28801


June 5 -  Raleigh, NC
Quail Ridge Books
Event Time: 7:30 pm 
3522 Wade Ave
Raleigh, NC  27607


June 7 - Jacksonville, FL
The BookMark
Event Time: 7:00pm
220 First Street
Neptune Beach, FL  32266


June 9 - Miami, FL
Books and Books
Event Time: 7:00 pm
265 Aragon Avenue
Coral Gables, FL  33134


June 11 - Tampa, FL
Inkwood Books
Event Time: 6:00 pm
216 S. Armenia Avenue
Tampa, FL  33609


June 12 - Pensacola, FL
Barnes & Noble
Event Time: 6:00 pm
The Cordova Crossing 
1200 Airport Blvd.
Pensacola, FL 32504 


June 14 - Nashville, TN
Barnes & Noble
Event Time: 7:00 pm
1701 Mallory Lane
Brentwood, TN  37027


June 18 - Oxford, MS
Square Books
Event Time: TBA
160 Courthouse Square
Oxford, MS  38655


June 19 - Biloxi, MS
Barnes & Noble
Event Time: 5:00 pm
Gulfport Shopping Center
15246 Crossroads Parkway  Gulfport, MS  39503


June 21 - New Orleans, LA
Garden District Bookshop
Event Time: 5:30 - 7:00 pm
2727 Prytania Street
New Orleans, LA 70130


June 24 - Atlanta, GA
Written magazine 30 books 
in 90 days kickoff event
Hammonds House Museum
Event Time: 4:00pm, $5 admission
503  Peeple  Street
Atlanta,  GA   30310
 

June 25 - Atlanta, GA
Jimmy Carter Presidential 
Library & Museum
Event Time: 6:00 pm
441 Freedom Parkway
Atlanta, GA  30307


June 26 - Austin, TX
Book People
Event Time: TBA
603 North Lamar
Austin, TX  78703


June 28 - Wichita, KS
Watermark Books & Cafe
Event Time: 7:00 pm
4701 E. Douglas
Wichita, KS  67218


June 29 - Kansas City, MO
Community Christian Church 
Event Time: 7:00pm
4601 Main Street 
Kansas City, MO  64112
Book sales by Rainy Day Books 


July 11 - Washington, DC
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Event Time: 7pm
Bowie Library
15210 Annapolis Rd.
Bowie, MD  20715
Ph: (301-262-7000)
Bookseller MahoganyBooks DC


September 20–22, 2012,  DC
2012 Annual Legislative 
Conference Author Pavilion
Congressional Black Caucus
Walter E. Washington 
Convention Center

Exhibit Showcase, Hall E
801 Mount Vernon Place, NW
Washington, DC,  20001

Metro Access on the GREEN 
and YELLOW lines



All dates subject to change; please check back frequently for updates.  Follow us on Facebook, here, for event news, schedule updates and contests!



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Black Pearls eTours Media Room


Author Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts refuses to be predictable or to rest on his considerable laurels. He is funny when you think there's not a smidgen of humor to be found, enraged at the very moment we thought we no longer cared, and he shakes us up just when we're so certain we have it all figured out. In other words, he makes us better for having read him. What a gift. In sparse, often electric prose, Pitts challenges us to be bigger than we thought possible, and then shows us how to get there.   —  Connie Schulz, Cleveland Plain-Dealer

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Please Follow 2012 Freeman Book Tour Schedule
http://leonardpittsjr.com/Schedule_of_Events.htm

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JOIN US TODAY IN SPREADING THE WORD....  

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President of  EDC Creations Media Group 
EDC Creations: www.edc-creations.com 


 


 

JOIN THE ONLINE AUTHOR'S TOUR

Please copy and paste the material listed on this page to your Twitter,  Facebook Notes,  website, blog or Internet Radio show.   Spread the word about this author and their book.  We appreciate all that you do to Give the Gift of Knowledge.  Read on for more details!

We are promoting the latest novel by Mr. Pitts, FREEMAN.

FREEMAN
is a love story--sweeping, generous, brutal, compassionate, patient--about the feelings people were determined to honor, despite the enormous constraints of the times. It is this aspect of the book that should ensure it a strong, vocal, core audience of African-American women, who will help propel its likely critical acclaim to a wider audience. 

At the same time, this book addresses several themes that are still hotly debated today, some 145 years after the official end of the Civil War. Like Cold Mountain, Freeman illuminates the times and places it describes from a fresh perspective, with stunning results. 

It has the potential to become a classic addition to the literature dealing with this period. Few other novels so powerfully capture the pathos and possibility of the era particularly as it reflects the ordeal of the black slaves grappling with the promise--and the terror--of their new status as free men and women.


ADVANCE PRAISE FOR FREEMAN:

NPR: 'Freeman': A Liberated Slave In Search Of Family
All Things Considered Interview with Audie Cornish, go here.
Read the interview transcript here.

"Leonard Pitts has a passion for history and a gift for storytelling. Both shine in this story of love and redemption, which challenges everything we thought we knew about how our nation dealt with its most stubborn stain." —Gwen Ifill, PBS, author of The Breakthrough

"Post-Civil War America is fertile ground for novelists, but few have tilled it with such grace and majesty as Leonard Pitts. In Freeman, Pitts weaves a beguiling, cinematic love story against a rich tapestry of American history, evoking unforgettable characters in a narrative that could easily replace a shelf of textbooks. What a splendid read!" —Herb Boyd, By Any Means Necessary—Malcolm X: Real, Not Reinvented



 

Join the Online Book Tour for Leonard Pitts Jr. 

June 1 - July 30,  2012

Readers, in order to join the online book tour please take the promotional material found on this page back to your network. You may copy the text from this Word document to post on your website or blog, go here now. Start posting the information below to your site on June 1, 2012 - July 30, 2012. 

Once you have posted the material, email Ella Curry with your list of links at: edc_dg@yahoo.com,  subject line: EDC Book Tour Host Posts.  The host with the most comments or postings will receive the featured grand prize for the book tour. The five (5) runner-ups will receive a gift book from a featured author. 
 
Join the online book tour by selecting one or more:

• Hosting a Skype phone session with the author and 20+ of your friends
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Please email Ella Curry your blog or website address, valid email address and your home mailing address so that we can send you the featured books or prizes.  ALL participants will receive a book gift from EDC Creations and our publishing partners!  We appreciate each of you for helping us support the authors and uplifting the craft of writing!  Email Ella at:  edc_dg@yahoo.com
 

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How to Participate in the Online Book Tour - listed below are a few suggestions on posting the material for your friends and network to enjoy!

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4. Tell your network about the authors and the books weekly. Consider selecting the featured books as your next Book of the Month. Post all future book reviews online at Black Expressions,  Amazon, Barnes and Noble or other online retailers. Share the links with Ella Curry,  so that she can tell the authors about your support.

5. Post the featured books and author interviews on your Facebook profile for 3-5 days in a row. 

6. Once you finish posting, send Ella Curry a complete list of the posts you created and the sites you used. EDC Creations will track your posts. We will notify all winners via email and post the winners to the front of Black Pearls Magazine: www.blackpearlsmagazine.com 

 

 



Meet Author Leonard Pitts Jr

Leonard Pitts, Jr. was born and raised in Southern California and now lives in suburban Washington, DC, with his wife and children.  He is currently a professor at Princeton University, as well as a columnist for the Miami Herald.  

In 2004, Pitts was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.  He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer in 1992.   He is the author of the novels Freeman  (Agate Bolden, 2012) and  Before I Forget  (Agate Bolden, 2009);   the non-fiction collection Forward From this Moment: Selected Columns, 1994-2009, Daily Triumphs, Tragedies, and Curiosities  (Agate Bolden, 2009);  and  Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood (Agate Bolden, 2006).

In 2004, Pitts was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer in 1992. He is the author of the novels Freeman (Agate Bolden, 2012) and Before I Forget (Agate Bolden, 2009); the non-fiction collection Forward From this Moment: Selected Columns, 1994-2009, Daily Triumphs, Tragedies, and Curiosities (Agate Bolden, 2009); and Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood (Agate Bolden, 2006).

In a career spanning 35 years, Leonard Pitts, Jr. has been a columnist, a college professor, a radio producer and a lecturer. But if you ask him to define himself, he will invariably choose one word.

He is a writer, period.

He knew this from an early age; when he was five, he began penning superhero stories starring a boy hero with a cape, super strength and the ability to fly, who bore a not-quite coincidental resemblance to the author himself. Pitts began sending his stories and poems out to magazines when he was 12. 

In 1991, he joined The Miami Herald as its pop music critic. Since 1994, he has penned a syndicated column of commentary on pop culture, social issues and family life. His book, Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood, was released in May, 1999 and was reissued in paperback in June of 2006. His critically-acclaimed first novel, Before I Forget, was released in 2009 and a collection of his columns, Forward From This Moment, was published that same year.

In 1997, Pitts took first place for commentary in division four (newspapers with a circulation of over 300,000) in the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors' Ninth Annual Writing Awards competition. He is a three-time recipient of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Award of Excellence, a five-time recipient of the Atlantic City Press Club’s National Headliners Award and a seven-time recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Green Eyeshade Award. 

In 2001, he received the American Society of Newspaper Editors prestigious ASNE Award For Commentary Writing and was named Feature of the Year - Columnist by Editor and Publisher magazine. 

In 2002, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists awarded Pitts its inaugural Columnist of the Year award. In 2002 and in 2009, GLAAD Media awarded Pitts the Outstanding Newspaper Columnist award. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Old Dominion University. Leonard also wrote the historic 2008 series I Am A Man, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.


PRAISE FOR LEONARD PITTS, JR.

"Leonard Pitts, Jr. is the most insightful and inspiring columnist of his generation." 
—Tavis Smiley


"As a long-time reader and admirer, I find there is only one thing to question about Leonard Pitts being awarded the Pulitzer Prize: What took them so long?" —Bob Costas


Visit the Leonard Pitts, Jr. website at:  www.leonardpittsjr.com 

Read Recent Articles by Leonard Pitts Jr.
Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald
http://www.miamiherald.com/leonard_pitts

 


FREEMAN READING
by Leonard Pitts Jr.


Leonard Pitts, Jr.  reading 8 minutes from his new novel "Freeman" at McIntyre's Books in Pittsboro NC.   Reading is taken from FREEMAN as the main character Sam Freeman is leaving Washington DC when he is confronted by white soldiers. Sam Freeman and his traveling partner Ben/Shine on the bridge near DC.   Share this video with friends! Share, comment and repost: http://youtu.be/DOEqaztvO2Y 

Freeman  illuminates the times and places it describes from a fresh perspective, with stunning results. It has the potential to become a classic addition to the literature dealing with this period.  Few other novels so powerfully capture the pathos and possibility of the era particularly as it reflects the ordeal of the black slaves grappling with the promise--and the terror--of their new status as free men and women.

Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.
Purchase Freeman from Amazon

Paperback 432 pages 
ISBN-10: 1932841644 
ISBN-13: 978-1932841640 

 


THE REVIEWS ARE IN!

Monday | June 11, 2012 | Volume 2 | Issue 1757

PAPERBACK

FREEMAN:  A Novel by Leonard Pitts (Agate Bolden, $16, 9781932841640). “As the Civil War ends, many broken lives await their own personal reconstruction. Pitts weaves together the stories of former slaves seeking family members from whom they were long separated, abolitionists opening a school to educate Southern blacks for a new life, and defeated, still-angry Confederate soldiers. The characters are multi-dimensional and the historical detail is astonishingly accurate. Freeman is an engrossing, moving read and an original portrayal of a pivotal time in our nation's history.”  --Terri Weiner, Village Books, Bellingham, Wash.




Celebrity Tweet on FREEMAN

Gabrielle Union - @itsgabrielleu
Just finished a wonderful, moving, riveting novel "Freeman" by Leonard Pitts, Jr. WOW! 
"Chains are not always visible" #truth


 

More Than a Great Summer Read: Freeman by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Book review posted by Chef Druck on June 12, 2012 

My kids studied Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War this year, learning about slavery and the different economies of the South and the North that almost tore the US apart 150 years ago. The concept that one human being could own another was so strange to them that they struggled to understand it, still vaguely skeptical that the history they were reading was not complete fiction.

Great historical fiction makes that history come alive, helps us understand those different times. My daughter read the Dear America, a Slave Girl diary novel and I read FREEMAN by Leonard Pitts, Jr. Two different books with similar themes that let us have rich, topical discussions on slavery and the Civil War.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s new novel, FREEMAN, takes the reader into the complete chaos of a true revolutionary period: the end of the Civil War. The story takes place in the months after the Confederate surrender when the end of slavery enabled African Americans to set off to reunite with spouses and children that had been sold to different owners. The narrative alternates between two main characters: a former slave named Sam Freeman and a courageous abolitionist named Prudence Kent.

Sam Freeman leaves his job in a Philadelphia library and travels on foot to Mississippi to find the wife he last saw fifteen years ago. As he journeys South, he encounters formerly wealthy plantation owners who are armed, bitter and in denial of new laws. Prudence Kent also travels South as soon as the war ends, but not to find a loved one. She goes to Buford, Mississippi to open a school for former slaves, and ignites a powder keg of resentment among the local whites.

I found FREEMAN to be a thrilling read which made this tumultuous time period come to life, better than any summer movie blockbuster. The characters were richly painted and the way Sam Freeman’s voice switched to hide his education depending on whether his audience was hostile Southerners was absolutely terrifying. Thanks to this amazing novel, I now have a much better appreciation for the post Civil War era. This would be an amazing book club selection as it is rich in topics for discussion.

Read the entire blog entry and review, go here.


Connect with Leonard Pitts Jr. Online

Media/Bloggers: http://www.blackpearlsmagazine.com/leonardpitts.html 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Leonard-Pitts/241159629299064  






Miami Herald Book Review for Freeman
Freedom won, a search for lost love
By Amy Canfield

Leonard Pitts Jr. often tells stories in his syndicated, Pulitzer-prize winning column for The Miami Herald. Those stories are true and current, meant to be thought provoking and many times to put a human face on the issues of the day. Now Pitts brings that mastery of the story to historical fiction with Freeman — and masterful it is. With his stimulating and illuminating style, Pitts’ novel, set in the early days following the Civil War, is a sweeping, human tale of idealism brutally squashed and the strength of the human spirit and its ability to change and grow.

Rich in period details from the mundane to the most atrocious, the captivating story Pitts weaves is simplistic in its resonance but complex in its emotions. The characters and their growth, their fierce and stirring highs and lows, their battles with their own prejudices, make this novel unforgettable.

And once again, Pitts puts a human face on an overwhelming issue and eloquently educates his readers.  Amy Canfield is a writer in Portland, Maine.  Read original review  here






Praise for FREEMAN from Bookstores, Radio, Newspapers and Bloggers

Columnist Leonard Pitts turns out a pretty powerful love story." 
—Audie Cornish, All Things Considered

"Leonard Pitts has a passion for history and a gift for storytelling. Both shine in this story of love and redemption, which challenges everything we thought we knew about how our nation dealt with its most stubborn stain." 
—Gwen Ifill, PBS, author of The Breakthrough

"Post-Civil War America is fertile ground for novelists, but few have tilled it with such grace and majesty as Leonard Pitts. In Freeman, Pitts weaves a beguiling, cinematic love story against a rich tapestry of American history, evoking unforgettable characters in a narrative that could easily replace a shelf of textbooks. What a splendid read!" 
—Herb Boyd, co-editor of By Any Means Necessary—Malcolm X: Real, not Reinvented

"Leonard Pitts, Jr. crafts a novel as well as the great storytellers of our time. Freeman captured my attention from the very first sentence and my heart throughout. Sam and Tilda will stay with me for a very long time. I can't let them go." 
—Sybil Wilkes, The Tom Joyner Radio Show

"It's the kind of book that you have to read, like stories of the Holocaust. Freeman reminds us of our humanity." 
—Nancy Olson, owner of Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, North Carolina

"Eye-opening...[Freeman] should give us insight into the capacity for love between men, women and children, separated by the institution of slavery." 
—Charles E. Richardson, Macon Telegraph (Georgia)

"This gripping and difficult novel remains a story of imperfect triumph for those former slaves and for the handful of whites who try to help them...[Pitts] keeps the reader hooked through outrage after outrage." 
—Arlene McKanic, BookPage

"I fell in love with Leonard Pitts Jr.'s fiction with Before I Forget. Now he's out with a new one, Freeman....It's a beautiful book, and I highly recommend it." 
—Carleen Brice, White Readers Meet Black Authors blog

"Freeman is a myth of what’s humanly possible, a needed story about little-known heroism, and a shadow thrown forward to the struggles of American families in the 21st century." 
—John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Rich in period details from the mundane to the most atrocious, the captivating story Pitts weaves is simplistic in its resonance but complex in its emotions. The characters and their growth, their fierce and stirring highs and lows, their battles with their own prejudices, make this novel unforgettable." 
—Amy Canfield, Miami Herald





FREEMAN 
by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Read FREEMAN Chapters 1-3
(PDF 1.37 MB)



FREEMAN, the new novel by Leonard Pitts, Jr., takes place in the first few months following the Confederate surrender and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Freeman tells three stories of courage, hardship, and faith that slowly coalesce around the town of Buford, Mississippi. The title character is Sam Freeman, a former slave who travels on foot a thousand miles through the ravaged South to find the woman he left behind 15 years earlier. Sam leaves the safety of his life in Philadelphia with no assurance that his wife, Tilda, is even alive. Only his abiding love for her and the memory of their dead son keeps him going as he faces the worst humanity can offer.

Tilda, meanwhile, is marched at gunpoint from the wreckage of her master’s ruined plantation in search of land outside the reach of the Union. Along the way, she is forced to grapple with questions of ownership, freedom, and her own agency in an echo of the wider African-American community as it deals with the radically altered landscape of Southern society. 

The third story focuses on Prudence Kent, a wealthy widow from Boston intent on starting a school for freed slaves deep in the heart of the former Confederacy. Prudence raises the ire of the local white population who view her, a Yankee, as very nearly as alien to them as their former bondsmen.

This is a story of survival and resilience, exquisitely told by Leonard Pitts, Jr.  In Freeman, he has crafted a brilliant, intricate work that is sure to resonate with readers all over.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.   is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the Miami Herald. He is the author of the novel Before I Forget, the memoir Becoming Dad, and Forward From This Moment: Selected Columns, 1994-2009. Available for blog tours, speaking engagements, phone and online interviews.  


Excerpt from FREEMAN

At length, Sam came to a bridge spanning the Potomac River. Two Union soldiers watched him approach. "What is your business?" one challenged when he stood before them.

"Nothing," said Sam, surprised. "I am just walking."

"What's your name?"

Sam stiffened. His head came up. "My name is Sam," he said.

"That's all? Sam?"

The soldier — a boy, really, shaggy blonde hair, chin whiskers still wispy — was spoiling for a fight. Sam considered his responses carefully. He thought of saying he was Sam Wilson, after the man who had owned him last, but something in him fumed against the thought. He had a self and it was one he wholly possessed, one that was not tied to a white man who had once considered him his property. Otherwise, what was the purpose of his escape to freedom? What was the purpose of these last four years of slaughter and privation? What was the purpose of the president's murder?

So he looked the white boy quite deliberately in the eye. "Free man," he said. He pronounced the syllables separately, distinctly, stopping between them, making them a statement in themselves. "My name is Sam Freeman."

The boy's eyes widened, then hardened. The next thing Sam knew, he was lying on the wooden planks of the bridge, his hand to his bloodied mouth, his eyes flashing light that was not there. Instinctively, Sam reached behind to push himself back up. He stopped when he saw the pistol leveled at him, the boy's hand so tight on the trigger that in some part of his mind, Sam marveled that he was not already dead.

"You sassin' me, nigger?" From somewhere beyond the pistol that filled his vision, the white boy's voice came to him, high and shaky, as if the boy could not suck in enough breath.

"You asked who I was, sir," Sam said, and was pleased to hear that his voice was quiet and reasonable and did not shake. "You asked my cognomen. You asked my appellation." Big words the boy soldier would not know.

"I asked your name!" the boy thundered and Sam was distantly gratified by this unwitting confirmation of ignorance.

"And I gave it to you," he said. "My name is Sam Freeman." He spoke evenly. He did not separate the syllables this time.

"Marse?"

A new voice had entered. Sam risked turning ever so slightly to find the source. His gaze fell upon a dark-skinned Negro who approached cautiously, palms up. It was Ben. He was smiling. His smile was blazing, teeth dazzling white and every last one on display.

The gun swiveled toward him, returned to Sam. "Who are you? What the hell do you want?"

Impossibly, the smile broadened. "You ain't want to shoot ol' Shine, sir. Shine, that's what they calls me. And I was just trying to explain, this boy here ain't meant no harm. No, sir. See, family he used to belong to, they's called the Freemans. But they's a white family, you see? Lives down near N'awlins. He just figure, with the fightin' over, he go down there, see if they got any work for him. 'Cause he miss the old place, you see. Miss his white folks. Plumb sorry he ever run off, that's what he told me."

"Is that true?" the boy soldier demanded of Sam.

It took Sam a moment. "Yes," he finally managed. "Yes, that is right."

Shine clapped him on the back hard enough to jar his bones. "See? There you go. This weren't nothin' more than a little misunderstandin', is all."

The soldier Jakey regarded them dubiously and for a moment, Sam was sure the lie had not worked. Then the second soldier took over and waved them through. "Go on, get out of here."

"Yes, sir," said Shine promptly. "Thank you, sir." And, clasping Sam's neck as if he were a troublesome child, he steered him past the guard post.

They walked in silence for long minutes as the bridge fell further behind them. Finally, Sam spoke. "I want to thank you for what you did."

Ben snorted. "You mean, you couldn't get yourself out of it with your 'proper English' and talkin' like you got marbles in your mouth? No, I expect you couldn't. Like to got yourself killed back there, mister free man." He drew the syllables out scornfully. "How long you been a nigger anyway, mister free man?"

"I have never been that," said Sam, not bothering to hide his scorn.

"You know what I mean," insisted Ben. "You just woke up black this morning for the first time? Only thing I can figure for how you think you gon' look that white boy in the eye and tell him you's a free man."

They were silent together for a moment. Then Ben glanced up. "So, free man, I ask you again: you want to walk along here together for awhile? Like I told you, seem to me, we maybe might need each other."

Sam nodded. "Yes," he said, "maybe you have a point."

And maybe they both were fools. This whispered up from some dark and frightened place in his heart before he could think to tamp it down. It was a ghost of a thought, gone almost before it was there. But it was there. Had been, off and on, ever since he left Philadelphia. More than once, Sam had decided to turn back.

But he pushed on. He had no choice, felt himself drawn toward her in some fundamental, mysterious way impossible to understand or resist. He had to see her. He had to know. It was as if he could not go on until he had heard her verdict on his life.

Sam had no idea what that verdict would be. Probably, he thought, she would hate him. And how could he blame her? He was responsible for the death of their son. If he had not been so determined, if he had not been so mule-headed, if he had simply listened to her, the boy would be alive to this day — and they might all have been together right up till the emancipation, owned by a mistress who was good enough as mistresses went, who didn't allow beatings and didn't believe in separating families.

And it would have been all right. He could have lived on that. It hadn't seemed so at the time, but now he knew: he could have lived on it.

Instead, he had filled the boy's head with freedom. The boy had listened. And the boy had died.

And now, Sam was going back for the first time since it happened. To say what? That he was sorry, though Lord knew he was? To ask forgiveness? To say he never meant it to happen? To tell her that he never once, not for one moment in all those years, stopped loving her? The Lord knew that all this, too, was true, but what did it matter? What could he say, what words existed, for when he laid eyes on her for the first time after so many years?

None. None at all.

( Continued... )

Excerpted from Freeman by Leonard Pitts, Jr. Copyright 2012, Leonard Pitts, Jr. Excerpted by permission of the publisher, Agate Publishing. All rights reserved.

Order FREEMAN by Leonard Pitts Jr. 
(Historical fiction)
ISBN-10: 1932841644 
ISBN-13: 978-1932841640 

         

 

 



Book Review: Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr. 
by Amy Canfield



Miami Herald review of Freeman
Freedom won, a search for lost love

Leonard Pitts Jr. often tells stories in his syndicated, Pulitzer-prize winning column for The Miami Herald. Those stories are true and current, meant to be thought provoking and many times to put a human face on the issues of the day. Now Pitts brings that mastery of the story to historical fiction with Freeman — and masterful it is. With his stimulating and illuminating style, Pitts’ novel, set in the early days following the Civil War, is a sweeping, human tale of idealism brutally squashed and the strength of the human spirit and its ability to change and grow.

Sam is a former slave who, after an unsuccessful escape attempt, was sold away from Tilda, the wife he adored. He ran away again, successfully, served in the Union army for two years and wound up in Philadelphia, where he works at a library when he hears the War Between the States has ended. His only desire now is to head back South and find Tilda, whom he hasn’t seen in 15 years. He doesn’t know if she is still alive, and if she is, whether she will even want to see him because she blames him for a tragedy in their past. Still, he sets off — on foot, determined to travel some 900 miles — to find out.

Meanwhile in Boston, war widow Prudence, a young white woman of means and the daughter of a staunch abolitionist, also sets out with her black “sister,” Bonnie, to start a school for the children of former slaves in Buford, Miss. Prudence’s father bought Bonnie’s freedom when she was a child, and raised her with his family. Bonnie is hesitant to make the trip, but Prudence’s fervor stirs her on.

Though they have little in common, Sam and Prudence share a few traits: Both are tenacious and optimistic that their dreams can be realized. Sam, educated and with a white man’s dialect, brushes off warnings from others that he’ll be in danger going South so soon after the war. Blacks are free now, he thinks; what problem will there be? 

Prudence knows she’ll encounter some obstacles in setting up her school, but since former slave owners no longer have control over Buford, they can’t stand in her way. By the time their paths cross, both have had their eyes opened to the violent, harsh realities of the day and are close to being emotionally crippled in their dejection. They have learned another startling truth: most slaves don’t trust freedom. And even if they do, what does it mean to them? “We’re free to do what?” one ex-slave asks Bonnie. Many slave owners, including Tilda’s, are hanging on to their “property” for dear life — the only life they have ever known.

Rich in period details from the mundane to the most atrocious, the captivating story Pitts weaves is simplistic in its resonance but complex in its emotions. The characters and their growth, their fierce and stirring highs and lows, their battles with their own prejudices, make this novel unforgettable.

Sam, a gentle, pensive man, is driven to inner rage when he encounters others like him searching for loved ones lost in the chaos of slavery. “Was this what they were to be now? Once a slave people, now a wandering people, rootless and itinerant, searching for one another and for connections that used to be. It was as if to be forever incomplete was the Negro’s awful destiny.”

Still, Sam perseveres. That tenacity and courage, brought to life by Pitts, lies at the heart of this compelling story. Idealism can be lost, but the fight for the ideal can go on. And once again, Pitts puts a human face on an overwhelming issue and eloquently educates his readers.

Amy Canfield is a writer in Portland, Maine.  Read the entire interview here. 





SNEAK PEEK: FREEMAN 
by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Freeman is a Love Letter to African American Women!

Meet Prudence:  Leonard Pitts, Jr. reading from his new novel "Freeman" at McIntyre's Books in Pittsboro NC.  Reading is taken from FREEMAN as the main characters Prudence and Bonnie have a fight, and Prudence is continuing the journey alone.

Prudence, is a fearless, headstrong white woman of means who leaves her Boston home for Buford, Mississippi, to start a school for the former bondsmen, and thus honor her father’s dying wish. View here: http://youtu.be/000uC7BoW7k 

 


 

Setting the Scene for Freeman Excerpt

Freeman is about a former slave named Sam who, at the very end of the Civil War, embarks on foot from Philadelphia to Mississippi in search of  Tilda, the wife he has not seen in 15 years. He doesn't know if she is still in Mississippi, he doesn't know if she still alive, he doesn't know if she has another man, he doesn't know if she wants to see him again; when they parted, there was a tragedy between them and she blamed him for it and hated him for it. 

In the scene below Sam, over a campfire, is explaining to his friend and travel partner Ben about his motivation for returning South, after so many years in the free North. He recalls how he was captured and his son killed on an escape attempt Tilda told him not to try. Before Sam was punished in the customary way, with a whipping at the post, Tilda shrieked at him, "Where is Luke? What happened to Luke?" 

The excerpt below takes off from Sam's reflection of Tilda's last words to him and his apology to her. 

-------


“When they were done, they threw me in the pest house to heal up. They would not let anyone in there except an old blind woman, Mammy Sue. She tended my cuts as best she could. Once, I asked her how Tilda was doing. ‘Not good,’ she said. I said, ‘Would you tell Tilda something for me? Tell her I’m sorry.’”

Sam’s laugh was bitter as unripe fruit. “Are there any two words in the English language more useless than those?” he asked. “‘Sorrow makes us all children again.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson said that.”

“What she say?” asked Ben.

“I asked Mammy Sue the next day when she came in to apply the poultice to my back. She told me Tilda said nothing, not a word. She said it was as if she had spoken to the tree. As I said, the word is useless.”

‘Yeah, but wasn’t too much else you could say,” said Ben.

Sam looked at him. “As soon as I was feeling better, Mistress sold me. One day, she walked into the pest house; it was the first time I had seen her since they brought me back. She faced me with me a sorrowful countenance as if to express to me how profoundly I had disappointed her. She said, ‘Perseus, I never would have thought it of you.’

“What you say?”

“I said nothing. What am I supposed to say to that? Then this white man entered behind her. He looked me up and down as though appraising a horse. He said to her, ‘Yes, he’ll do just fine.’ That was when I realized I was being sold.

“An hour later, I left there, tied in the back of his wagon. It rolled past the fields where the slaves were working, chopping cotton. Some of them stopped to look as I went by. Tilda never lifted her head, never even looked my way. I wanted to cry out to her, but it would have been useless, and besides, what could I say? I saw them telling her I was leaving, I watched them point toward me. She never stopped what she was doing.”

“Angry,” said Ben.

Sam nodded. “She was furious. She had a right to be.”

“So why you going back?”

Sam pondered this a moment. Then he said, “I do not rightly know. I suppose I just feel there must be something more I should say, some word I can find that will be more meaningful than ‘sorry.’”

He pulled out his watch. It was getting late. “I am going to turn in,” he said. He found a likely spot and lay down on the thin spring grass, clasping his hands behind his head as a pillow. Ben did the same and after a moment, Sam heard the other man’s breathing grow steady and deep. Only then did he allow himself to weep. The tears fell silently, his body shaking. He covered his mouth with his hand, lest any sound escape.

Regret ate him like cancer. It gnawed at the very gut of him.

His son, his only child, quick and lively boy who had looked like him and walked like him, even stood like him…and his Tilda, who had adored him and nurtured him, who had given shape and meaning to his days…why hadn’t that been enough? Wasn’t it more than many men had? Wasn’t it more than he even had a right to hope for? Why, then, had he risked it and ruined it? Why did he need all that, and freedom, too?

God, he had loved her.

Not just because she was beautiful, not just because her thighs were round and strong and her hair thick and long. No, he had loved her laughter. He had loved the quiet moment lying together on a mattress of corn shucks after a hard day, not speaking and not needing to. He had loved holding her hand and watching the rain from the front door of their cabin. He had loved watching her nurse their son, watching the boy tug greedily at her nipple while she gazed down on him with all the tenderness in the world. He had loved reading a book and handing it to her saying, ‘You should read this,’ and then talking about it with her afterward. He had loved her. 

He still did.

The knowledge of it brought tears rushing in fresh sheets of pain down his cheek. He wept in silence.

And it began to rain. 


(Continues...) 

© 2012 Leonard Pitts Jr. Excerpted by permission of the publisher, Agate Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. 


Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.
Purchase Freeman from Amazon

Paperback 432 pages 
ISBN-10: 1932841644 
ISBN-13: 978-1932841640 

                            

 



Intimate Conversation with Leonard Pitts Jr. 
Listen to the BAN Radio Interview with Ella Curry



"Leonard Pitts, Jr. is the most insightful and inspiring columnist of his generation." 
—Tavis Smiley

In a career spanning more than 35 years, Leonard Pitts, Jr. has been a columnist, a college professor, a radio producer and a lecturer. But if you ask him to define himself, he will invariably choose one word. He is a writer, period, author of one of the most popular newspaper columns in the country and of a series of critically-acclaimed books, including his latest, a novel called Freeman. And his lifelong devotion to the art and craft of words has yielded stellar results, chief among them the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

But that is only the capstone of a career filled with prizes for literary excellence. In 1997, Pitts took first place for commentary in division four (newspapers with a circulation of over 300,000) in the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors' Ninth Annual Writing Awards competition. He is a three-time recipient of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Award of Excellence, and was chosen NABJ’s 2008 Journalist of the Year. Pitts is a five-time recipient of the Atlantic City Press Club’s National Headliners Award and a seven-time recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Green Eyeshade Award.

In 2001, he received the American Society of Newspaper Editors prestigious ASNE Award for Commentary Writing and was named Feature of the Year - Columnist by Editor and Publisher magazine. In 2002, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists awarded Pitts its inaugural Columnist of the Year award. In 2002 and in 2009, GLAAD Media awarded Pitts the Outstanding Newspaper Columnist award. In 2008, he received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Old Dominion University.

Pitts’ work has made him an in-demand lecturer. He maintains a rigorous speaking schedule that has taken him to colleges, civic groups and professional associations all over the country. He has also been invited to teach at a number of prestigious institutions of higher learning, including Hampton University, Ohio University, the University of Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth University. In the fall of 2011, he was a visiting professor at Princeton University, teaching a course in writing about race.

Twice each week, millions of newspaper readers around the country seek out his rich and uncommonly resonant voice. In a word, he connects with them. Nowhere was this demonstrated more forcefully than in the response to his initial column on the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Pitts' column, "We'll Go Forward From This Moment," an angry and defiant open letter to the terrorists, circulated the globe via the Internet. It generated upwards of 30,000 emails, and has since been set to music, reprinted in poster form, read on television by Regis Philbin and quoted by Congressman Richard Gephardt as part of the Democratic Party's weekly radio address.

His books have also been widely praised. Tavis Smiley called him “the most insightful and inspiring columnist of his generation” in writing about Pitts’ 2009 collection of columns, Forward From This Moment. Publisher’s Weekly described his 2009 first novel, Before I Forget, as a “rare, memorable debut.” 

And the praise is already building for Freeman.  Gwen Ifill of PBS called it “a story of love and redemption which challenges everything we thought we knew about how our nation dealt with its most stubborn stain.” The acclaimed author and journalist Herb Boyd called it “a beguiling, cinematic love story.” And Sybil Wilkes, who chairs “Sybil’s Book Club” on radio’s top-rated Tom Joyner Morning Show said simply, “I so love this story.”

Leonard Pitts Jr. was born and raised in Southern California. He was awarded a degree in English from the University of California at the age of 19, having entered school at 15 on a special honors program. Since 1995, he has lived in Bowie, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D. C. with his wife and family. 


BPM: Mr. Pitts, how did you get started as a writer?
Well, I began to think of myself as a writer from the time I was five years old, which was a good thing, because it gave me a lot of time to be bad at it. I started sending poems and stories to magazines when I was 12 years old, first became published when I was 14, and first got paid for being published when I was 18. I spent the next 18 years working primarily as a music critic for a variety of magazines and radio programs. 

I was editor of SOUL, a black entertainment tabloid, did freelance work for such magazines as Spin, Record Review and Right On!, co-created and edited a radio entertainment news magazine called RadioScope and was a writer for Casey Kasem's radio countdown show, Casey's Top 40. 

BPM: What are your goals as a writer? Do you set out to educate? Entertain? Inspire? 
I think you write to entertain, first and foremost, to tell a story a reader will lose herself or himself in,. You try to create characters that will seem real to the reader and then put those characters into situations of physical or emotional danger. Secondarily, you hope that in entertaining people, you can also manage to say something of value, make some observation that will touch them or inspire them or cause them to see old things in new ways. 

BPM: What are some of the benefits of being an author that makes it all worthwhile?
Writing a novel is a year, two years, or more of lonely work, staring at blank screens and not really knowing if what you're doing works or makes any kind of sense. So the best thing about being published is receiving feedback from readers. When somebody tells me they were hurt by something one of my characters did, or a situation a character found him or herself in made that reader cry, that is the highest validation and best compliment I can ever receive. It means the characters seemed real and the story works. Feedback is what makes that lonely year or two worthwhile.


BPM: Introduce us to your book, FREEMAN and the main characters, Tilda and Sam Freeman. What message does his book share with the readers?
I envisioned Freeman as a love letter to African American women. That does not mean the book will not be accessible to other readers or that I don't want other readers to enjoy it. But I conceived the story as a romance that would speak most directly to my sisters who, let's face it, are often overlooked, left out, and flat out invisible in this culture. 

Freeman is about a former slave named Sam who, at the very end of the Civil War, embarks on foot from Philadelphia to Mississippi in search of Tilda, the wife he has not seen in 15 years. He doesn't know if she is still in Mississippi, he doesn't know if she still alive, he doesn't know if she has another man, he doesn't know if she wants to see him again; when they parted, there was a tragedy between them and she blamed him for it and hated him for it. 

Along the journey, Sam meets Prudence, a beautiful white abolitionist who has gone to Mississippi to open a school for the freed slaves. He develops feelings for her and she for him and the question becomes: does he continue his impossible search for Tilda, who he may never find and who may not even love him anymore, or does he stay with Prudence? And then... Well, I've said enough.

BPM: Is this the book you intended on writing or did it take on a life of its own as you were writing? How do you stay focused?
It is pretty close to what I intended it to be when I started out, but you always have to leave room for things to surprise you and there were a few things that happened here that I did not expect. As to focus: you write a novel in order to tell a story you yourself want to read. If I didn't finish, I would never get to enjoy this story as a reader. That has a way of keeping you focused.

BPM: Which character or topic in the book can you identify with the most? Why?
I can identify most with Sam, I think. He is a romantic, which I am, but he is also a highly educated black man who uses his education and his facility with words sometimes as a shield against people who presume to judge him as less because of his color. I can relate to that.

While this book takes place in the slavery years, this book is not about slavery. It's about relationships, freedom and claiming ones own identity in this world. I can relate to that too.

BPM: Ultimately, what do you want readers to gain from reading your book?
I want them to gain enjoyment and entertainment obviously. I'd love for them to think about some of the issues the book raises. But I would also like them to be aware that there was once a time in this country when black men and black women felt such a powerful need for one another that would walk, like Sam did, a thousand miles simply to be together again. I think that is an important thing to know. 

If you or your readers would like to set up a Skype visit to discuss Tilda and Sam, go to my site and contact me here: http://leonardpittsjr.com.  I'm available for blog tours as well. 

BPM: Tilda and Sam will become the new IT couple! Readers, you can read an exclusive excerpt from the book, HERE. Thank you, Mr. Pitts, for sharing a little bit about yourself, your journey and FREEMAN with our readers!   
Download the press kit here now.



Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.
Purchase Freeman from Amazon
Paperback 432 pages 
ISBN-10:  1932841644 
ISBN-13:  978-1932841640 

Visit Leonard Pitts Jr.  at his website: www.leonardpittsjr.com 

Read the Leonard Pitts Jr.  entire column at the Miami Herald, here: http://www.miamiherald.com/leonard_pitts   

Books by Mr. Pitts can be found at: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/leonard-pitts-jr 

 


 

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER

Dear Reader,

I’m writing to tell you about our lead title for the Spring 2012 season: FREEMAN (Agate Bolden, ISBN-13: 978-1932841640, May 15, 2012, $16), the powerful new novel from Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. Freeman takes place in the first few months after the Confederate surrender and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, following three unforgettable characters as they grapple with the realities of a post-slavery Southern society.  

Upon hearing the news of Lee’s surrender, Sam Freeman decides to leave his safe haven in Philadelphia and travel on foot through the war-torn South.  He’s compelled on this near-suicide mission to return to the Mississippi plantation he left 15 years before in search of his wife and mother of his dead son.  

Unbeknownst to Sam, his wife Tilda is being forced to walk at gunpoint with her owner and two other remaining slaves from the charred remains of his Mississippi plantation, in search of land West that will still respect his entitlements as a slave owner and Confederate officer.  

At the same time, Prudence Kent, a headstrong, intelligent, uncompromising young widow, travels from her comfortable home in Boston to Buford, Mississippi to start a school for newly-freed slaves and fulfill her abolitionist father’s dying wish.

 At its heart, Freeman is a love story—sweeping, brutal, generous, patient—about the feelings people were determined to honor, despite the enormous constraints of the time. It also illuminates the heartbreaking, bewildering struggle faced by a newly freed people who had spent generations indoctrinated in the belief that they were property. Meticulously researched and unflinchingly honest, Freeman evokes a world at once alien and yet disturbingly familiar in its exploration of race and class, and creates a beautiful, rich portrait of a deeply divided country trying to regroup after a long, brutal war.

 I hope you will consider Freeman for review coverage. This is an important and profound work about one of the most tumultuous times in our nation’s history, from one of the most celebrated African-American voices of our generation.   If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at seibold@agatepublishing.com   or at  847.475.4457.

 Yours, 
Doug Seibold

 

 



Columnist Leonard Pitts Urges 
Listeners to “Own What You Know”


Leonard Pitts Jr. speaks at MTSU:   Leonard Pitts Jr., who won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, emphasized the importance of “Owning What You Know” on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 at MTSU.  View the presentation here now.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts spoke at Middle Tennessee State University 
on Wednesday.  His lecture, “Owning What You Know,” addressed what he described as a growing willingness to substitute opinion, and sometimes even lies, for truth in our democracy. His lecture was sponsored by the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies in MTSU’s College of Mass Communication.

Leonard Pitts warns of the use of opinion as fact and public acceptance of it.

“I want to begin by telling you a bunch of things that are not true. “It is not true, as Mitt Romney says repeatedly, that President Obama has ever apologized for America.

“It is not true, as the AmeriPAC political action committee claims, that Democrats have voted to outlaw conventional light bulbs.

“It is not true, as Sarah Palin has said, that the new health-care law will require your grandmother to justify her continued existence before a so-called ‘death panel.’

“It is not true, as about 1 in 5 Americans continues to believe, that the president of the United States was born outside the United States.

“What is true is that something, however, has gone haywire in this country.

“Stephen Colbert called it correctly seven years ago, in the very first episode of The Colbert Report, when he coined the word ‘truthiness,’ i.e., that which feels true, even if it’s not. He coined that word to describe this era. ‘I don’t trust books,’ he said. ‘They are all facts, no heart.’

“You know, it seemed like a satire when he did it. It has since become the state of the union. Many of us no longer feel obligated to engage with facts that contradict what we wish to believe. …

“The issue is not simply that we do not have the facts, it is that we do not want the facts. It is that we refuse to engage them. It is that we actively reject anything that does not comport with what we have already chosen to believe. …

“Lying is not restricted to a given political party or ideology. Lying is a human thing. But my point is not about lying. …

“This thing of lying by committee, of trying to turn lies into truth by sheer repetition, of hammering lies like nails, this thing of lies being echoed and magnified by a network of bloggers, and radio talk show hosts and TV pundits.

“This thing of brazen falsehoods that fly in the face of science, and history, and facts, and decency. …

“It threatens grave and profound damage to the intellectual life of the nation, to our ability to simply be thinking and responsible members of the American electorate.”

Read the original article,  go here.  ]





Leonard Pitts Jr. On Writing, Race, Politics and Society



Some Harsh Sentences Prove Unjust 

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

So the people got sick of it, all those criminals being coddled by all those bleeding heart liberal judges with all their soft-headed concern for rights and rehabilitation. And a wave swept this country in the Reagan years, a wave ridden by pundits and politicians seeking power, a wave that said, no mercy, no more.

From now on, judges would be severely limited in the sentences they could hand down for certain crimes, required to impose certain punishments whether or not they thought those punishments fit the circumstances at hand. From now on, there was a new mantra in American justice. From now on, we would be “tough on crime.”

We got tough on Jerry DeWayne Williams, a small-time criminal who stole a slice of pizza from a group of children. He got 25 years. 

We got tough on Duane Silva, a guy with an IQ of 71 who stole a VCR and a coin collection. He got 30 to life.

We got tough on Dixie Shanahan, who shot and killed the husband who had beaten her for three days straight, punching her in the face, pounding her in the stomach, dragging her by the hair, because she refused to have an abortion. She got 50 years.

We got tough on Jeff Berryhill, who got drunk one night, kicked in an apartment door and punched a guy who was inside with Berryhill’s girlfriend. He got 25 years.

Now, we have gotten tough on Marissa Alexander. She is the Jacksonville woman who said her husband flew into a violent rage and tried to strangle her when he found text messages to her first husband on her phone. She said she fled to her car, but in her haste, forgot her keys. She took a pistol from the garage and returned to the house for them. When her husband came after her again, she fired — into the ceiling. The warning shot made him back off. No one was hurt.

Like Shanahan before her, Alexander was offered a plea bargain. Like Shanahan, she declined, reasoning that no one would convict her under the circumstances. Like Shanahan, she was wrong. 

Earlier this month, Alexander got 20 years for aggravated assault. And like Shanahan, like Berryhill, Williams, Silva and Lord only knows how many others, she received that outlandish sentence not because the judge had a heart like Simon LeGree’s, but because he was constrained by so-called “mandatory-minimum” sentencing guidelines that tie judges’ hands, allow them no leeway for consideration, compassion, context or common sense. In other words, they prohibit judges from judging. 

Charles Smith, the judge who sent Shanahan away, put it best. He said the sentence he was required to impose “may be legal, but it is wrong.” Amen.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” In a nation where we execute people based on no evidence save eyewitness testimony, it is hard to imagine what meaning that prohibition still holds. But assuming it means anything, surely it means you can’t draw a 20-year sentence for shooting a ceiling.

Except that Alexander just did. In restricting judges from judging, we have instituted a one-size-fits-all version of justice that bears little resemblance to the real thing. It proceeds from the same misguided thinking that produced the absurd “zero tolerance” school drug policies that get children suspended for bringing aspirin and Midol to class. In both cases, there is this silly idea that by requiring robotic adherence to inflexible rules we will produce desirable results.

By now, it should be obvious how wrongheaded and costly that reasoning was — and how urgently we need to roll back the wave that swept over us in the Reagan years. It is understandable that the nation wanted to get tough on crime.

But we have been rather hard on justice, too.


About the Author
Leonard Pitts Jr.
is a politically progressive African American commentator, journalist and novelist. He is a nationally-syndicated columnist and winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. His latest novel, FREEMAN is now available at:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/leonard-pitts-jr 

Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.
Purchase Freeman from Amazon
Paperback 432 pages 
ISBN-10: 1932841644 
ISBN-13: 978-1932841640 

 



Don’t Blame the Bible
By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Sometimes, people hide inside the Bible.

That is, they use the Christian holy book as authority and excuse for biases that have nothing to do with God. They did this when women sought to vote and when African Americans sought freedom. 

They are doing it now, as gay men and lesbians seek the right to be married.

The latest battleground in that fight is North Carolina, where voters go to the polls Tuesday to render a verdict on Amendment One, which would add to the state constitution the following stipulation: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”

Mind you, the Tarheel State already has a law on the books banning same-sex marriage. The would-be constitutional amendment is meant to double down on exclusion. And if you read the language carefully, you saw what many observers have seen — that it can also be interpreted as denying legal recognition to unmarried heterosexuals.

Not that this holds any sway with those who hide inside the Bible. “God has defined marriage,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a Sunday sermon quoted in the Charlotte Observer. “It is not up to us to redefine it.” In a letter to the editor, an Observer reader put it thusly: “You either believe [the Bible] or not.”

One wishes those people could spend a little quality time with Matthew Vines. 

Vines is a Christian, a 22-year-old Harvard undergrad raised in a conservative evangelical church in Kansas. He is also gay and says he grew up being taught that the Bible condemns his sexual orientation. He took two years off from school to research and study whether or not that assertion is true.

The result is The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality. It’s a video — you can find it online with a simple Google search — of a speech he gave in March at a church in Wichita that has become a minor sensation. Small wonder. Vines’ speech is a masterwork of scriptural exegesis and a marvel of patient logic, slicing and dicing with surgical precision the claim that homophobia is God ordained. So effective is the video that after viewing it, Sandra Delemares a Christian blogger from the United Kingdom who had, for years, spoken in staunch opposition to same sex marriage, wrote that it “revolutionised” her thinking.

Vines points out, for instance, that the frequently quoted condemnation (homosexuality is an “abomination”) from the Old Testament law book of Leviticus has no application to Christians, who are bound by the teachings of the New Testament. He explains that St. Paul’s admonitions about the “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” stem from modern mis-translations of ancient Greek terminology.

It is fascinating stuff, and there is not nearly enough space here to do it justice, but the salient point is this: Matthew Vines is not some godless heathen lobbing bombs at Christianity from outside its walls. No, he lives inside Christianity’s walls, still holds the faith in which he was raised. So this is not an outsider’s attack. It is an insider’s plea.

One hopes that plea is heeded. Vines’ speech is long — a little over an hour — but well worth the time, particularly for those seeking to reconcile first-century faith with 21st-century social concerns..

Many in North Carolina — many around the country — are swimming against the tide of human freedom and blaming God for it. Again, this is not a new thing. We saw it back when God was for segregation and against women’s suffrage.

How convenient it must be to lay your own narrowness and smallness off on God, to accept no responsibility for the niggardly nature of your own soul. Vines’ video is a welcome, overdue and eloquent rebuke of the moral and intellectual laziness of throwing rocks, then hiding inside Scripture. It is a reminder, too.

You don’t go to the Bible to hide. You go there to seek. 


About the Author
Leonard Pitts Jr.  is a politically progressive African American commentator, journalist and novelist. He is a nationally-syndicated columnist and winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. His latest novel, FREEMAN is now available at:  http://amzn.to/vuwymR

Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.
Purchase Freeman from Amazon
Paperback 432 pages 
ISBN-10: 1932841644 
ISBN-13: 978-1932841640 

 


 

Looking for Morning in America
By Leonard Pitts Jr. The Miami Herald 

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer points her finger in President Barack Obama's face during an intense conversation in Phoenix.   The picture, the saying goes, is worth a thousand words. Unfortunately, we have only about 550 with which to appraise a picture that has raised eyebrows across the country: In it, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is seen wagging her finger in President Obama’s face during his visit to her state last week.   

The two were apparently engaged in a discussion of Arizona’s controversial immigration laws and of a 2010 White House meeting which Brewer described at the time as “very cordial.” She has since written a book in which she now claims the president’s demeanor was “condescending.”

As to her demeanor in that picture, Brewer says she, ahem, has a habit of talking with her hands. She also says she felt “threatened.” Apparently, she thought the scary black man might hurt her even though he’s president of the United States and they were standing in broad daylight surrounded by security. Good thing he didn’t follow her into an elevator. She might have Maced him. 

Perhaps you are old enough to remember when it was morning in America. That was the title of a 1984 campaign ad for Ronald Reagan, but it also came to symbolize an era. Say what you will about Reagan, but credit him with this much: He restored to his party and the nation a sense of vibrant optimism that came as a welcome jolt after Carter’s malaise and Nixon’s crookedness. Nearly 30 years later, as his putative political offspring attempt to claim his mantle, it is obvious by many measures that none of them is Reagan. But the most glaring deficit is embodied in that picture.

It reminds us that Republicans are no longer about sunshine and can-do. These days, they simply seem cranky and dyspeptic. As in Herman Cain vowing to build a fence to electrocute Mexicans, Newt Gingrich verbally punching out the media and debate audiences cheering for record executions and the death of the uninsured. As in Jan Brewer poking her finger in the president’s face.

Under Reagan, optimism about the future was the Republican brand. But that brand has curdled in the ensuing 30 years and the party that once sold hope has become instead the party of grouchy codgers yelling at the future to get off their lawn. More to the point, it has become a party of those unable to process the sense of dislocation, the loss of primacy and privilege our present demographic path portends. Thus, it has become the party of resentment and resistance, the last stand against ongoing racial, religious, cultural and sexual upheaval, the Alamo in the fight to forestall change.

This is why a Jan Brewer feels herself empowered to wag her finger in the face of the president. And why the charisma-challenged Mitt Romney spends long weeks out in the cold looking for love like a character in a country song while bomb throwing zealots, who would have been laughed out of previous elections, take turns playing frontrunner. 

They will likely settle for him, but what Romney offers is not what many in the Republican electorate evidently seek. At bottom, they seem less concerned with competence or a new economic plan than with finding a gunslinger for a showdown against the future.

Ronald Reagan would not recognize his party today. Morning in America is almost 30 years gone. It’s high noon now. 


Meet the Author
Leonard Pitts Jr.
won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his twice-weekly syndicated Miami Herald column, which appears in more than 200 newspapers, and has won numerous other journalism awards. Pitts has a readership in the multi-millions across the country, and his columns generate an average of 2,500 email responses per week. 

Born and raised in Southern California, he now lives in suburban Washington DC with his wife and children. His first novel, Before I Forget, was called "bold in spirit and scope" and "a rare, memorable debut" by Publishers Weekly.

Books by Mr. Pitts can be found at: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/leonard-pitts-jr.  Visit Leonard Pitts Jr. at his website: www.leonardpittsjr.com.  Read Leonard Pitts Jr.'s entire column at the Miami Herald, go here: http://www.miamiherald.com/leonard_pitts   

 


 

Practicing the Politics of Racial Resentment
By Leonard Pitts Jr. The Miami Herald 

I got my first job when I was 12. The deacons at my church paid me $2 a week to keep it swept and mopped.

So I do not need Newt Gingrich to lecture me about a good work ethic. In this, I suspect I speak for the vast majority of 39 million African Americans.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Gingrich’s recent language , including his performance at last week’s South Carolina debate and his earlier declaration that Barack Obama has been America’s best “food-stamp president,” amounts to a coded appeal to racist sensitivities. The answer is simple: yes. 

In this, Gingrich joins a line of Republicans stretching back at least to Richard Nixon. From that president’s trumpeting of “law and order” (i.e., “I will get these black demonstrators off the streets.”) to Ronald Reagan’s denunciation of “welfare queens” (i.e., “I will stop these lazy black women from living high on your tax dollars.”) to George H.W. Bush’s use of Willie Horton (i.e., “Elect me or this scary black man will get you..”) the GOP long ago mastered the craft of using nonracial language to say racial things.

So Gingrich is working from a well-thumbed playbook when he hectors blacks about their work ethic and says they should demand paychecks and not be “satisfied” with food stamps” As if most blacks had ever done anything else. As if an unemployment rate that for some mysterious reason runs twice the national average does not make paychecks hard to come by. As if blacks were the only, or even the majority of, food stamp recipients.

When challenged on this by debate moderator Juan Williams, Gingrich went after it like Babe Ruth after a hanging curve ball, delivering a strident defense of the need to teach poor kids the value of a paycheck. “Only the elites,” he lectured, “despise earning money.” It won him a standing ovation.

Let’s be clear. To the degree Gingrich’s argument is that stubborn, intergenerational poverty is often fed by habits and ways of life inimical to the building of wealth, he is exactly right. But those habits and ways afflict the white hollows of Appalachia as much as the black heart of urban America, and when Gingrich defines poverty solely as blackness, he is not critiquing poverty, but race.

The South Carolina audience sure got the message. That state is one of the poorest in the Union: fifth lowest median income, poverty rate of 18.2 percent. So if the point is just that the poor must get up off their backsides, why would they applaud? They are the poor. 

They applaud because they understand he is not talking about them. He is saying, “Elect me and I will get these black people’s hands out of your pocket.” For as much as Republicans decry the so-called politics of envy, they still seem right at home practicing the politics of racial resentment — and mass distraction.

In so doing, they tap a rich vein of stereotype and preconception about the supposed laziness of African-American people.

One of my students shared this parable: A rich white man sits with a poor white man and poor black man at a table laden with cookies. The rich white man snatches all the cookies but one, then turns to the poor white man and says, “Watch out for that darky. I think he wants to take your cookie.”

It works every time. 

Meet the Author
Leonard Pitts Jr.
won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his twice-weekly syndicated Miami Herald column, which appears in more than 200 newspapers, and has won numerous other journalism awards. Pitts has a readership in the multi-millions across the country, and his columns generate an average of 2,500 email responses per week. 

Born and raised in Southern California, he now lives in suburban Washington DC with his wife and children. His first novel, Before I Forget, was called "bold in spirit and scope" and "a rare, memorable debut" by Publishers Weekly.

Books by Mr. Pitts can be found at: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/leonard-pitts-jr.   Visit Leonard Pitts Jr. at his website: www.leonardpittsjr.com.   Read Leonard Pitts Jr.'s entire column at the Miami Herald, go here: http://www.miamiherald.com/leonard_pitts    


 

Don Cornelius created show that helped black kids come of age
By Leonard Pitts Jr.

This was for us.

And that was a new thing, so we gathered faithfully to the television as that hard-working cartoon engine chugged across the screen, rainbow smoke pouring from its stack, the announcer calling us to order once upon a Saturday. This was “Sooooooul Train,” he said, darn near yodeling the name, “the hippest trip in America, 60 non-stop minutes across the tracks of your mind, with guest stars…”

And oh, the guest stars…Gladys Knight, slinky and gorgeous lip syncing Friendship Train as the Pips whirled behind her; the Jackson 5 rocking Dancing Machine, Michael gliding as if to make a liar out of Newton; Marvin Gaye, so besotted by some nubile young dancer he forgot to lip sync Let’s Get It On.  Or maybe the guest was someone little remembered now, someone who flashed and faded — Jean Knight, Enchantment or the Honey Cone — but who owned a moment and marked it indelibly. 

Soul Train host Don Cornelius died Wednesday, February 1, 2012  at his home in Los Angeles of an apparent suicide at the age of 75.  If you are black and of a certain age that news likely stunned you back to a time when the only things wider than your Afro were your lapels, your favorite movie was Shaft or Cooley High and there was a stack of 45’s next to the turntable on your dresser.   Soul Train, which Cornelius created in 1970, was essentially a black American Bandstand, but to leave it at that is to miss its truest import.

This was for us, those of us who were young and black and coming of age in the post civil rights years.
Don’t t take that wrong. Soul Train was not exclusionary.  White kids joined the “Soul Train gang,” that crew of dancers whose angular athleticism was like nothing you’d ever seen on television.  White artists — Elton John, David Bowie, Gino Vannelli — played its stage.  Young whites like Wolf Isaac Blitzer from Buffalo were among its many fans.

And yet, this was something especially for us. We knew it from the Afro Sheen commercials (where else on television did they advertise Afro Sheen?),  from the fashions the dancers wore and from the way Cornelius took our slang and gave it back to us, stylized and made somehow profound by his cool announcer’s baritone.  “Here’s a big’un we’re sho’nuff diggin’,”  he would say, announcing some new tune by James Brown or the Dramatics.  Dick Clark didn’t talk like that.

And then, there was his signature sign off:  “Join us next week on most of these same stations, and you can bet your last money, it’s all gonna be a stone gas, honey.  I’m Don Cornelius and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul!”

Soul being that beat, that authenticity, that depth of spirit, that hip swagger we felt made us unique. We were something new, the promise of the civil rights years made manifest in polyester pants and towering Afros — and here, for the first time on television, was something for us.

If you are white and television has always been for you, if you are black and cannot recall a time before BET, Centric and TV One, you likely cannot appreciate what a revelation that was. If you are black and of a certain age, you cannot forget it. And you understand why there is really only one fitting farewell for Donald Cortez Cornelius.

May he rest in love, peace . . . and soul. 


Meet the Author
Leonard Pitts Jr.
won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his twice-weekly syndicated Miami Herald column, which appears in more than 200 newspapers, and has won numerous other journalism awards. Pitts has a readership in the multi-millions across the country, and his columns generate an average of 2,500 email responses per week. 

Born and raised in Southern California, he now lives in suburban Washington DC with his wife and children. His first novel, Before I Forget, was called "bold in spirit and scope" and "a rare, memorable debut" by Publishers Weekly.

Books by Mr. Pitts can be found at:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/leonard-pitts-jr.  Visit Leonard Pitts Jr. at his website:  www.leonardpittsjr.com.  Read Leonard Pitts Jr.'s entire column at the Miami Herald, go here:  http://www.miamiherald.com/leonard_pitts   

 




Behind the Pen with Leonard Pitts Jr. 

Leonard Pitts Jr. won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his twice-weekly syndicated Miami Herald column, which appears in more than 200 newspapers, and has won numerous other journalism awards.  Born and raised in Southern California, he now lives in suburban Washington DC with his wife and children. His first novel, Before I Forget, was called "bold in spirit and scope" and "a rare, memorable debut" by Publishers Weekly.

BPM: Mr. Pitts, how did you get started as a writer?
Well, I began to think of myself as a writer from the time I was five years old, which was a good thing, because it gave me a lot of time to be bad at it. I started sending poems and stories to magazines when I was 12 years old, first became published when I was 14, and first got paid for being published when I was 18. I spent the next 18 years working primarily as a music critic for a variety of magazines and radio programs. 

I was editor of SOUL, a black entertainment tabloid, did freelance work for such magazines as Spin, Record Review and Right On!, co-created and edited a radio entertainment news magazine called RadioScope and was a writer for Casey Kasem's radio countdown show, Casey's Top 40. 

BPM: Introduce us to your book, FREEMAN and the main characters, Tilda and Sam Freeman. What message does his book share with the readers?
I envisioned Freeman as a love letter to African American women. That does not mean the book will not be accessible to other readers or that I don't want other readers to enjoy it. But I conceived the story as a romance that would speak most directly to my sisters who, let's face it, are often overlooked, left out, and flat out invisible in this culture. 

Freeman is about a former slave named Sam who, at the very end of the Civil War, embarks on foot from Philadelphia to Mississippi in search of Tilda, the wife he has not seen in 15 years. He doesn't know if she is still in Mississippi, he doesn't know if she still alive, he doesn't know if she has another man, he doesn't know if she wants to see him again; when they parted, there was a tragedy between them and she blamed him for it and hated him for it. 

Along the journey, Sam meets Prudence, a beautiful white abolitionist who has gone to Mississippi to open a school for the freed slaves. He develops feelings for her and she for him and the question becomes: does he continue his impossible search for Tilda, who he may never find and who may not even love him anymore, or does he stay with Prudence? And then... Well, I've said enough.

BPM: Which character  in the FREEMAN can you identify with the most? Why?
I can identify most with Sam, I think. He is a romantic, which I am, but he is also a highly educated black man who uses his education and his facility with words sometimes as a shield against people who presume to judge him as less because of his color. I can relate to that.

While this book takes place in the slavery years, this book is not about slavery. It's about relationships, freedom and claiming ones own identity in this world. I can relate to that too.

BPM: What are your goals as a writer? Do you set out to educate? Entertain? Inspire? 
I think you write to entertain, first and foremost, to tell a story a reader will lose herself or himself in,. You try to create characters that will seem real to the reader and then put those characters into situations of physical or emotional danger. Secondarily, you hope that in entertaining people, you can also manage to say something of value, make some observation that will touch them or inspire them or cause them to see old things in new ways. 

BPM: Do you have any advice for people seeking to publish a book?
Study your craft, read a lot, write a lot, and persevere. There really is no shortcut. 

Practice your craft. Then practice it some more. After you're done with that, take a little more time and practice. This is the only sure route to learning your craft. There is, in other words, no trick, secret, or magic formula that will make you good. Unfortunately for them, most writers are very good at finding excuses not to write. This is because writing is not enjoyable. As some sage once put it: "Writing is not fun. Having written is."

So what is required of the would-be writer is that he or she first develop the discipline to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and start putting words down on the screen. You will be awful at first, then a little better. In time, perhaps, you will become good. And sometime after that, assuming you possess the basic gifts for it, you will become great.

Time not spent writing should be spent reading. Read constantly and promiscuously. Read writers whose work you admire and try to figure out how they do what they do and what it is in their work that makes it achieve whatever effect it does. Read writers whose work you dislike and try to figure out what they're doing wrong so that you can avoid making the same mistakes.

It's important to invest in the tools of your craft. In making an investment, you prove – to others and, more importantly, to yourself – that you are serious about this thing. To that end, you need a workspace – doesn't have to be fancy, but it ought to be yours and accessible to you on a regular basis. You need a word processor or computer; a good dictionary, an almanac, a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style, and a thesaurus. You need a copy of Writer's Market, which is a directory of magazine publishers. It lists the kind of material they're looking for, the contact persons and the prices they pay. Also, get yourself a subscription to Writer's Digest; it's a monthly magazine that deals with the craft of writing, but also the business of it. The magazine provides a great crash course for young writers.

Finally, assuming you have any cash left over, you might want to pick up a copy of Stephen King's On Writing. It's a memoir of the craft that I found inspirational and instructive


BPM: Ultimately, what do you want readers to gain from reading your FREEMAN?
I want them to gain enjoyment and entertainment obviously. I'd love for them to think about some of the issues the book raises. But I would also like them to be aware that there was once a time in this country when black men and black women felt such a powerful need for one another that would walk, like Sam did, a thousand miles simply to be together again. I think that is an important thing to know. 
If you or your readers would like to set up a Skype visit to discuss Tilda and Sam, go to my site and contact me here: http://leonardpittsjr.com.  I'm available for blog tours as well. 


BPM: Tilda and Sam will become the new IT couple!  Readers, you can read an exclusive excerpt from the book, HERE. Thank you, Mr. Pitts, for sharing a little bit about yourself, your journey and FREEMAN with our readers!  
Books by Mr. Pitts can be found at: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/leonard-pitts-jr.  Visit Leonard Pitts Jr. at his website: www.leonardpittsjr.com.  Read Leonard Pitts Jr.'s entire column at the Miami Herald, go here: http://www.miamiherald.com/leonard_pitts   

Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.
Purchase Freeman from Amazon
Paperback 432 pages 
ISBN-10: 1932841644 
ISBN-13: 978-1932841640 


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