Skip to Content

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. to Speak at University on Nov. 28

Campus community, general public invited to President’s Distinguished Speakers Series event featuring renowned commentator and ‘Freeman’ author

BRISTOL, R.I. – Twice each week, millions of newspaper readers seek out the rich, uncommonly resonant voice of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. And countless others have devoured his critically acclaimed books, including his most recent, the 2012 novel titled “Freeman.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, members of the public are invited to spend an evening with Pitts as part of the President’s Distinguished Speakers Series at Roger Williams University.

In a presentation titled “After Race,” Pitts will share his ideas on the history, and the future, of race in America. Race is a concept ephemeral in nature, he says, yet one that has formed the basis for this country’s history, so much of it awful. The conversation at Roger Williams will examine what that portends in an America that is now undergoing profound demographic change.

“I have followed Mr. Pitts’ columns for many years and have always been impressed not only with his writing, but also with his perspectives and how he frames them,” says RWU President Donald J. Farish. “Speaking for our students and faculty in journalism and creative writing, and for all of us on campus, we are grateful for the opportunity to welcome a Pulitzer Prize winner and exceptional author to Roger Williams.”

Pitts is a Miami Herald columnist who has worked for more than 36 years as a writer, college professor, radio producer and a lecturer. Nowhere was his connection with readers demonstrated more forcefully than in the reaction to his column, “We’ll Go Forward From This Moment,” on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – an angry, defiant response to the terrorists still widely quoted more than a decade later.

In 2009, he published two books that propelled him into a career as a novelist. After the debut of his collection of newspaper columns, “Forward From This Moment,” Tavis Smiley of PBS called Pitts “the most insightful and inspiring columnist of his generation.” Later that year, Pitts published his first novel, “Before I Forget,” which Publishers Weekly called a “a rare, memorable debut.”

Race is a topic that Pitts has explored freely, both through his newspaper commentary and in “Freeman,” which tells the tale of a runaway slave in the months following the Confederate surrender and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Like much of Pitts’ work, the book was widely praised – PBS journalist Gwen Ifill 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,” and author and journalist Herb Boyd described it as “a beguiling, cinematic love story.” 

Pitts’ lifelong devotion to writing has yielded critical acclaim and stellar results, chief among them the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. He is a three-time recipient of the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Black Journalists and a seven-time recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Green Eyeshade Award, among other accolades.

The Nov. 28 presentation will take place in the Campus Recreation Center on the University’s Bristol campus at One Old Ferry Road. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the event will begin at 7:30 p.m. A book signing with the author will immediately follow the presentation.

The event is free and open to the public; no advance tickets are required. For more information, call (401) 254-3154.

The President’s Distinguished Speakers Series at Roger Williams University launched in October 2011 and to date has welcomed two guests – ambassador, activist and public servant Andrew Young and science writer and bestselling author Dava Sobel – to campus. The series invites thought leaders from a wide range of disciplines to share perspectives, inspire conversations and enrich the intellectual lives of students, faculty and staff at Roger Williams as well as members of the local community.

As part of the series, each guest is invited to devote much of the daylong visit to direct engagement with students in classroom sessions, offering RWU students unique opportunities for one-on-one interactions with some of the world’s leading authors, scholars, artists and public servants.