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. Upon learning of Lee’s surrender, Sam–a runaway slave who once worked for the Union Army–decides to leave his safe haven in Philadelphia and set out on foot to return to the war-torn South. What compels him on this almost-suicidal course is the desire to find his wife, the mother of his only child, whom he and their son left behind 15 years earlier on the Mississippi farm to which they all “belonged.”
At the same time, Sam’s wife, Tilda, is being forced to walk at gunpoint with her owner and two of his other slaves from the charred remains of his Mississippi farm into Arkansas, in search of an undefined place that would still respect his entitlements as slaveowner and Confederate officer.
The book’s third main character, 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.
At bottom, 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.
About 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 a columnist for the Miami Herald and won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, in addition to many other awards. He is also the author of the novel Before I Forget (Agate Bolden, 2009); the 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).
“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, Hr. 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
‘Freeman’: A Liberated Slave In Search Of Family
NPR Book Review – May 10, 2012 (Excerpt)
In Freeman, Pitts explores the turbulent and violent time after the official end of war and assassination of President Lincoln. He draws from historical classifieds to emphasize the steadfast efforts of freed slaves looking to reconnect with their loved ones. Pitts tells NPR’s Audie Cornish that most people weren’t aware of what was going on at the time.
“To me, it’s such a fascinating and little known fact that all of these African-Americans newly freed slaves went to such lengths to reconstitute their marriages and reconstitute their families,” he says.
“Nobody really talks about this, but you’ve got — 20 years after the war — people placing ads and walking across counties and states. And I just liked the idea of using real ads to emphasize that this was a real story. These were real people who were looking for their loved ones.”
At the center of the novel is a love story. Sam Freeman, a liberated slave, embarks on a 1,000-mile journey to Mississippi in search of his wife Tilda. As Sam travels through the South, he encounters many different stories: slaves who are searching for their families, masters who won’t give loved ones back and slaves who are killed on their way out of the South.
With these anecdotes, Pitts wanted to recognize the struggle of freed slaves by “giving the full dimension” of their story. [Read the full article...]
Leonard Pitts Jr.’s ‘Freeman’: Powerful novel about post-Civil War America
The Washington Post Book Review – July 6, 2012 (Excerpt)
About two-thirds of the way through Leonard Pitts Jr.’s powerful novel about post-Civil War America, a former slave owner remarks that while civilization began in Greece, Mississippi may well be “where it will end.”
Sam Freeman, an ex-slave who has just walked a thousand miles through a war-torn land of chaos and lawlessness, can only agree. In the several weeks since the war ended and he began his frightful odyssey south from Philadelphia, Sam has lost an arm, contracted a disabling infection in his foot, been beaten and stomped to within an inch of his life and witnessed any number of his fellow “freedmen” lynched, pressed back into de facto bondage, forcibly separated from their families or hunted down and shot like wild animals.
The North may have won the war, but in the nightmarish world of “Freeman” many of the worst horrors of slavery have not ended. Sam, a self-educated employee of the Philadelphia Free Library who fought as a Union soldier, decides to find his wife, Tilda, from whom he was sold away 15 years before. He knows that he has only the slimmest chance of succeeding. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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