Leonard Pitts Jr.’s Freeman

Imagine a man walking from Philadelphia to Mississippi, hoping to unite with the woman he loves and hasn’t seen or spoken to in 15 years. That’s Sam, a runaway slave who fought in the Union Army, and is working in a library when he learns that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at the Appomattox Courthouse.  He adopts the surname, Freeman, and embarks on his journey on foot.

Then there’s Tilda.  She and Sam met working on a plantation whose owner encouraged her slaves to learn to read.  Sold after Sam’s escape, she’s afraid to leave her abusive new master, who doesn’t accept the news that the war ended.

At the same time, Prudence Kent, a Boston war widow, travels south to open a school for the freed slaves, honoring a promise made by her father decades ago. She’s accompanied by her friend, Bonnie, a black woman who has lived in the Kent household since youth.

Leonard Pitts Jr.’s  Freeman captures the uncertainty, fear, and struggle for identity that plagued both blacks and whites at the close of the Civil War and upon the death of President Lincoln.

I’ve always liked Pitts’ columns for the Miami Herald and was curious about his crossover into fiction. His attention to geography and history, his portrayal of the characters’ journeys, alternating each chapter, and his message about the importance of literacy and education kept me turning pages of the 400-page novel.

There have been many stories about post-Civil War journeys; of people trying to reconnect with loved ones divided by the war. Freeman is another excellent addition to the genre; it emphasizes once again that there are no clear answers, that nothing is simply black and white.

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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14 Responses to Leonard Pitts Jr.’s Freeman

  1. With our Attorney General talking about “poll taxes” in TX, this will be a timely read. Thanks!

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  2. Thanks. I will have to purchase this one.

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  3. looks great. Do you have a copy or should i venture to the library?

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  4. Barbara klein says:

    Interesting Story. Reminds me of the Book that I read to the 4th grade.”Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt”, about the underground railway Very abbreviated story, but you can imagine what they went through. Love Mom.

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  5. CurlsnSkirls says:

    Read through a number of his columns and enjoyed them very much. Will look for the book in our library system. Thank you for alerting me to another good author!

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  6. Having just visited Monticello and James Madison’s house, this strikes a chord. We need more stories like this…

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  7. jakesprinter says:

    Great story Lisa ,Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  8. Lisa…you are so very creative…love your take on Black and White. 🙂

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  9. Pingback: Sunday Post: Black & White…or Do We Parent in Shades of Gray? « Positive Parental Participation

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