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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 belongedAt 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 officerThe 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 wishAt 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

10 thoughts on “Freeman

  1. says:

    This book will stay in my mind and heart for a long long time It is without a doubt painful to read the post Civil war period was bloody and brutal and Pitts does not hold back the level of assault on the bodies and minds of those who lived through this period But the heart of the book is the inability of even the cruelest of institutions to crush humanity Loyalty persistence passion redemption compassion and above all love and hope these ualities persist And healing physical but importantly psychological and emotional healing spread from one person to another and back again The characters in this book are not perfect they make mistakes sometimes for good reasons sometimes not But they are human and they assert that humanity in spite of all that they endure Pitts has said that he wrote this book as a love song to Black women personifying that love in the character of Sam who undertakes an almost impossible journey to be reunited with Tilda his wife that he left behind in slavery 15 years earlier It is certainly that but for me it was a love song to all of those who endured so much and retained their humanity so that they could pass it on to those like me who were to come There is a song written by Bernice Johnson Reagon founder of the a cappella singing group Sweet Honey In The Rock called I Remember I Believe that says I don’t know how my mother walked her trouble down; I don’t know how my father stood his ground I don’t know how my people survived slavery I do remember that’s why I believe I do not know how those who came before me lived through it all but my hope is that many who don't know their stories particular the post slavery stories told here will read this book and remember I remember I believe and I give thanks for their lives

  2. says:

    Too often people assume that when a war ends the trouble stops the problems are over That is far from true It took over a century to begin to fix the Civil Rights problem that was supposedly resolved with the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865 This book is an excellent study on what life was like for the blacks in the years following the Civil War This book is all about how the Dixie Southerners continued to view the colored Views did not change overnight It is also about how the blacks viewed themselves What is freedom when you have no money and no employment and no place to live? What is freedom when you don’t know where your mother father wife and children are or even if they are still alive? What is freedom after rape and murder and repetitive beatings? How do you reach emotional stability after living through such horror? Can you forgive?This book draws a picture that I believe to be accurate and realistic It cannot be an easy read or a comforting read but it ends with hope and a promise for the future Parts were hard for me to read and that is because the author made me care for the characters Some were clever others despicable but all of them felt real I appreciated that both sides the slave owners and the slaves were portrayed fairly One was not all wrong and the other all right Even the most despicable were occasionally well at least not all badI also liked how the plot unrolled The author created a fascinating story that you want to understand You want to know what is going to happen and how the problems will be resolved At the end you understand everything There are no loose ends and I very much like the ending being both realistic and hopeful too At first I was uncomfortable with the narration by Sean Crisden but by the end I loved it What bothered me at first was when he spoke lines presented in the third person He stops at the periods and commas and I felt he was listening to himself with a tone of self satisfaction However as you listen further and as you become aware of each character’s personality there are and dialogs and these are just perfect He captures the Southern dialect and the Yankee dialect the whites and the blacks women and men and children all eually well I will close with a uote from the book “You gotta have hope To hope is the whole point Being scared all the time ain’t much different from bein dead”There are good lines to suck on I liked this book very much and I highly recommend the audio format

  3. says:

    This was a heavy book and I'm not referring to the weight because I read it on a Nook I'm talking about the weight of emotion that powered through me as I read the heartbreaking things that take place There was a particular scene where I was just bawling and I had to put my Nook down and continue reading the next day Much good that did me because I bawled again a couple of pages later Some other GR friends have commented that Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns The Epic Story of America's Great Migration which is nonfiction and chronicles the migration of African Americans from the South to the North steeled them for this book but since I haven't read it yet I don't have a basis for comparison I guess I'm in for pain and crying when I eventually read that sigh Pitts weaves a tale that centers around three people Sam who is on a journey from Philadelphia to Mississippi to find Tilda his long lost wife and it turns out to be a painful uest both physically and emotionally Tilda for her part is stuck with a slave master who has evidently not gotten the memo that the Civil War has ended and refuses to let her go The third character is Prudence a white woman from Boston who goes to Mississippi with her 'sister' Bonnie to build a school for newly freed African Americans Sam was intriguing His non use of contractions made him sound very formal It was a bit disconcerting sometimes and felt really out of place in the middle of everyone else's speech He's very intelligent and his thought process really showed his high intellect and depth Tilda was complicated for me because even though I got a lot of her story through her and Sam's eyes I still didn't really feel like I knew her It sounds strange I know but while with Sam I could feel the raw emotion and see the demons he was fighting with Tilda I could only feel pity and sympathy from afar She seemed a bit aloof and I suppose that was a direct conseuence of the pain and loss she had gone through It's a wonder she didn't go insane after all that With Prudence we see a lot of heart stubbornness and impulsiveness My opinion about her really wavered I admired her for taking on taking it upon herself to create the school in Mississippi especially since she could have remained in Boston and continued her life in ignorant bliss However I found myself frustrated with her stubbornness impulsiveness and outright naivete which led to disastrous conseuencesWith these characters Pitts illustrates the uncertainty that newly freed African Americans have to grapple with What does it mean to be free? How does one begin to piece together a life from painful and lost fragments? How does one even begin to move forward? I was in awe of the sheer resilience and determination of the people he portrayed He also captures the desperation and fear of former slave masters who would do anything to hang onto the past as well as the pervasive attitudes and mentalities of other white people An example “She’s the only thing of value I still own in this world” Jim McFarland says pleading “I understand” says Moody “But Honey is the only thing I still own Would you deprive me of my property because you have been deprived of yours? Where is the honor in that Captain?” When I got to that dialogue in the book and this was about 85% of the way I was so disgusted and I nearly fell out of my chair in utter disbelief because it was absolutely frightening to confront this type of mentality I just cannot imagine how owning human beings as property elevates a person's sense of worth and it is an absolute tragedy that such a violent and destructive institution has built civilizations and countries which include the US I docked a star for this because there was a scene in the book that I deemed totally unnecessary It served absolutely no purpose and just felt awkward and desperate in light of all the other things going on Overall though this was a beautiful book The topic of slavery is always difficult to confront and Pitts does a fantastic job of conveying so much of the raw emotion of that time period

  4. says:

    I know I’m in the presence of fine writing if I find myself studying how the author achieved a passage’s clarity and rightness its emotional weight And I know I’m in the presence of a great story if I cry over it I experienced both as I read Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr a narrative of the lives of three former slaves a Yankee woman and her adopted African American sister at the end of the Civil War A Pulitzer prize winning newspaper columnist Pitts unfolds dramatic scenes and dialogue that sounds just the right emotional notes gravely formal restrained ironic I found myself admiring eually the author’s use of period detail along with the kind of flesh and blood descriptions that make an historic novel live make it breathe A case in point his handling of names that white masters arrogantly attached like clothespins to their slaves as opposed to using a man or woman’s actual name It’s worth noting that Pitts doesn’t simply mention this and move on he develops a touching scene so that I felt the dehumanizing impact of an evil system that turned even names into raw pain and degradation Yet Pitts shows the subtleties and contradictions that existed then as now in our tangled lives for example the slave master who albeit briefly appears to sense the humanity of his one time slave through a common loss As I followed the emotional and physical journey of his characters in the ravaged South Pitts succeeded in making me feel the cruelties the disappointments confusion and painful loss that newly freed men and women bravely faced at the end of the war The author’s prose is unadorned and taut and it generates near unbearable tension as we travel into a world where freedom is filled with danger And yes love and hope I highly recommend Freeman most of all because it is a wonderful moving story

  5. says:

    If one has a grounding in African American history than much of this book will not be new or fresh ground That is not to say a knowledge of African American history is necessary to enjoy this novel on the contrary You will be educated and moved by the story of AAs struggling after emancipation There are three concurrent journeys taking place in Freeman Sam Freeman Tilda and PrudenceThrough the story of these three one really has to examine what is the right way to respond to sudden freedom Or is there even a right way? How would you react to being free after being enslaved for so long? Well we are given these different perspectives while feeling as best we can what it could have been like I like the fact that some unknown history is being brought to life The commitment to learning is a little known black history fact but is made clear in this novel The establishment of marriage bonds and love without legal sanction and the seriousness of these connections is another reality lost to history As Sam is asked along his trek 'you need some white man with a Bible to tell you who your wife is?'The main character Sam Freeman sets out on a 1000 mile journey by foot to find his wife Tilda the minute after the war is over It has been fifteen years but he still has a burning desire to reconnect with his wife This was not an anomaly History is replete with many wandering the south after emancipation attempting to reunite with family That is a serious statement on love Some of the situations in this novel are pulled directly from history This lends realism to the book and helps move it to the greatness column Tilda is a character that will frustrate some because of what we see as fear The author does a great job of drawing her with a balance that makes the reader empathetic even though she makes you wanna holler Does she choose not to change her situation because of fear? Or is there something deeper?Prudence is anything but prudent and as such becomes the center of a firestorm She is the feisty daughter of a northern abolitionist who came late to that position She is committed to helping the freedmen as a duty to her late father The revelations for Prudence uncovered in her adventure are a minor setback for her She soldiers on in the face of information that some would find crushingI know I am being deliberately vague in describing events because I want you all to buy this book read and share it with others There are some serious teachable moments that are historically accurate This novel should certainly be added to the must read list concerning the emancipation time periodThere is much to be gleaned from this novel and will give one a greater sense of African Americans and their commitment to this country this is a great book

  6. says:

    It is the end of the American civil war and slavery had just been abolished People were jubilantly dancing in the streets of America An era came to an end Although it was one of the purposes of the war to establish freedom for everyone nobody really seemed to grasp the real meaning of the concept Those who finally gained their freedom were the least prepared for it For most of them slavery was bad but peace brought much worse conseuences than ever envisioned You could say the battle was won but the war was not over and some of the optimistic celebrators did not know what was waiting on the other side For those who never knew freedom who were born in slavery the thought of freedom was a highly unsettling and frightening idea After all people were still white and other black And the whites still regarded the black people as something similar to dogs or horses Not human No not human at all In physical deportment intellectual capacity and moral integrity white men were set apart from all the other races of the world That includes your red man your yellow man and most certainly your black man”Bostonian Prudence Cafferty Kent's father warned her “When this war is finished when the Union is restored this government will do nothing for the colored man It will free him and then it will leave him to fend for himself in a hostile and resentful land It will reuire people like us people of means to fill in the gaps” In memory of her late father she decided to move down south and establish a school for the newly freed slave children in a building belonging to her father She wanted to make a difference She felt it was her calling Her husband gave his life to make a difference as well She had to carry on their visions and wishes But Prudence was an inexperienced and a simply stubborn mulish headstrong person who envisioned herself as the savior of many A person who thought that her wishes would become everyone else's commands What she found in the little town Buford Mississippi would not only drastically clear up her misconceptions about life and destroy innocent people's lives but will also make her realize how damaging her actions were for the inhabitants of Buford she tried to help We have lost our homes and other property We have lost our dignity and pride We have lost our way of life and we have lost our country By the holy God how much can you Northern people expect us to lose? Would you have us surrender our sacred place in the very order of creation? We will not meekly accept that We cannot if we wish to still consider ourselves white men You will not prop the Negro up as our social or political eual We will resist that with every means at our disposal Mrs Kent We will resist for a hundred years and ”The intolerance resentment bitterness and rebellion in the different groups are pushed to the limits with her arrival and the choices she made Sam Freeman fled the south and landed up in Phillidelphia working as an assistant in a library when the good news arrived about the end of the war He wanted to return to Buford to search for his wife Tilda whom he left behind fifteen years earlier It was a dangerous decision to make He made an oath when he fled the bondage of Mrs Louisa Prentiss down south that he will return for his wife when he managed to establish a new life up north He knew the time had come for him to go back to his roots in Mississippi He walked a thousand miles and to honor the promise he made to himself Tilda had her own story to tell It was a life of hardship and hell that did not end with the signing of the peace treaty since her 'owner' refused to give up his 'property' She had no desire or aspirations to leave her master The unknown and the uncertainty of a free life convinced her to stay be loyal and endure The known was intolerable but still better than the unknown Comments Fastidious Intense Convincing Excellent What a stroke of luck it was to choose this book as my first read for 2014 I often read Leonard J Pitt Jr's syndicated columns and had this book now for a few months stacked to be read I love his writing style so it was with excitement and joy that I opened this book last night and got goingAll I want to say is that it was an emotionally charged suspenseful read The plot the rawness of the events the scenery and historical details in the book kept me reading from beginning to end without taking a break I am not sure how well this book is received in the American psyche but I do wish people from all over the world can read it for the powerful message it contains about human dignity and respect and what people do to each other when one group so often violently is denying it to anotherThere is such a wealth of pathos character and deeply moving moments in the book There is the good the bad and the ugly But mostly there is an honesty of thought and intent rolled out in the rainbow of elouent prose I recommend this book to EVERYONE

  7. says:

    Freeman is a must read It is one of the strongest books on painful lives and given the pernicious and insidious racism that exists in the United States today given groups that are working to eradicate such attitudes attitudes too light a world This book is a must for people of white skin color; not to scold or nag but to get inside the screaming human condition that African Americans have dealt with for infinitudeI am solidly and insatiably a reader and have read volumes of incredible literature on race conditions Freeman pulls the reader inside the soul of the figures in the book I am older and white but by the time I was over 50% through the book; I hated whitesHate is not the object but I don't hate whites what I hate are the thickened veils of denial ignorance lack of compassion empathy and justice The time is now The time was now thenyesterday and a 1000 yesterdays but you can guess what I'll say next Read the book weigh in on itKudos to the author; it's a major triumph With love to all of humanity We are one We need to have that concept permeate our very beings

  8. says:

    Upon learning of the Confederacy's surrender Sam Freeman an former slave decides to leave his safe haven in Philadelphia and go find Tilda his wife in the war torn south Its been fifteen years since Sam last saw Tilda He does not know wether she is wants to see him or even if she is still alive but he sets out on a 1000 mile journey on foot anyways Meanwhile Tilda is being dragged by her former master to any place where he still is seen as a proud slaveowner In Boston Prudence Cafferty has lost her husband in the war and wants to honor the promise she made to her father She goes to Buford Mississippi to set up a school for the freedmen As all these individuals go through trials and tribulations they discover the true meaning of freedomI have had this book in my TBR pile for a while now I am glad to have finally read it Its a strong powerful and poignant narrative set in the post Civil war south Sam who has given himself the surname Freeman is working in a library in Philadelphia When news break out of the defeat of the Confederacy Sam decides he will go look for his wife The two became separated when their owner sold them that was fifteen years ago Sam escaped and found a safe haven but now he intends to leave it in search of the woman he loves Tilda on her end is still with her former master that refuses to accept the loss of the south Thus he drags Tilda to where he can still be a proud Confederate and slaveowner Prudence Cafferty a white northern is a widow her husband fought for the Union and died for the cause Her father was an abolitionist and Prudence promised him to help the freedmen when the war was over Prudence leaves Boston for Mississippi and sets up a school for the freedman She expects trouble but the tensions that her arrival and her school cause surpass her wildest expectations As these three individuals forge on their paths intersect and their lives are altered in unchangeable waysThis novel deals with the end of the Civil War Its set on the first few months after the Confederate surrender Leonard Pitts Jr built an atmosphere that felt cold and hostile raw bloody and brutal just like it must have felt at the end of the war The characters were nuanced and the tension palpable on the pages The three POV's Sam Tilda and Prudence had clear and distinct voices and contributed to creating a full picture of a war torn scene This is not an easy book to read I would hardly describe it as enjoyable but I would definitely say it is an important read I have to be frank and admit that I had not thought about the immediate aftermath of the end of the war and the end of slavery That the war and slavery had ended did not mean that the deep set racial perceptions stopped existing I doubt they ever will In some regards the freed slaves faced uncertain times as free men than as slaves Yes they were no longer in bondage but they had no homes did not know where their families where or if they were still alive had no jobs no recognizable forms of income and faced a growing resentment by the southern slaveowners that felt that their lifestyly had been attacked It was still a long way to truly be free for them In this aspect Leonard Pitts Jr truly shined as he painted a scene that was heartbreaking and tough but also hopeful and promising

  9. says:

    Publisher summary Freeman 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 to find his wife whom he has not seen in 15 years At the same time a headstrong white woman of means misnamed Prudence leaves her Boston home for Buford Mississippi to start a school for the former bondsmen and honor her father’s dying wishI had to zoom through this in a day to finish it in time for a book club discussion but the author made it easy for me The story moves uickly as it circles between the stories of Sam Tilda and Prudence Overall I enjoyed it The premise of someone walking over 1000 miles to find a long last spouse is very romantic but also representative of the desperation many suddenly former slaves must have experienced well now what? Of course your first thought would be for your family if it had previously been split apart when you had no powerThe author doesn't balk from discussing the tensions between Yankees and Southerners former slave owners and former slaves etc but my one complaint would be that overall every southern white person is portrayed as bad and every northern white person is portrayed as noble I'm pretty sure there were just as many northerners fighting for personal interest obligation and the thrill of battle as those in the south At the same time this novel is not about the white people for once At least the communities of former slaves are not simplified or stereotyped Maybe I'm balking then at an intentional flipping of which communities are usually generalized in Civil War novels Well played Mr PittsI suppose there isn't a way to write a historical novel without the perspective of what has happened since but there were moments where it was too obviously in the author's mind One Civil War veteran also a plantation owner gets angry at Prudence and says multiple times that the south will fight 100 years if they must It seemed like an obvious reference to the Civil Rights movement that would cause so much change in the south in the 1960s approximately 100 years later than the war but anyone living down here knows that wasn't the end of the conflict There are still people in my town who sell racist propaganda and call it southern pride I wish this felt like a completely historical novel The power of the majority in a small town the ways to take control outside of legal means the methods that people can use to shut down dissent or change these are all well and good and Pitts does well in writing them into the novel especially in the town of Buford Mississippi I'd actually like a seuel novel that follows the group of people that dominate the end of this one Perhaps that will be next

  10. says:

    You know you become emotionally involved in a novel when a scene is so heartwrenching that you just have to close the book or in my case shut down my kindle get yourself together and pick it up a day later when you're ready to continue I had a few of those moments while reading Freeman The Reconstruction era in America was not the happy ending that many would have liked it to be and I'm sure many former slaves never expected would happen anyway and it is described in vivid detail in this novel The story follows the three tales of Sam a former slave who escaped to Philadelphia but heads South after the war to find the wife he left behind Tilda a free woman who is still in bondage to a former slave master who will NOT let her go and Prudence the daughter of abolitionists who decides to head South to start a freeman's school Their stories weave back and forth and we follow them through their journeys of gradual disillusionment and eventually acceptance and renewal I thought the story was very well executed though a little less literary than I had expected I gave it a 4 though i would rather give it a 4 12 because the story sometimes devolved into a bit of a soap opera but overall I would definitely recommend this book as a great powerful read