Leonard Pitts Jr. on The Last Thing You Surrender

Updated: Dec 21, 2019


One of the biggest book fairs in the US recently graced the city of Miami again, as this time, it was bigger than ever! Great authors from around the world come to the sunshine state to share their art with the community, and Check the Vibes Magazine was able to speak with some of those monumental writers. One of who, was Leonard Pitts Jr.! He's the winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in the Miami Herald. Plus, he's a journalist as well as a novelist.


Smooth as ever, Leonard Pitts walked up to Mackenzie and I, shook our hands and smiled. Just from his demeanor alone, we could tell this was going to be a good conversation, and quite frankly, we couldn't wait to get it going. While he has more than eleven books under his belt, his most recent piece, The Last Thing You Surrender, challenges it's reader by asking if they could find the courage to do what's right in a world on fire. Pitts likes to refer to this as a novel of race, faith and war, and during our conversation, he touched on why historical pieces are relevant to write about, as they're very much in tune to today's climate.


A lot of this book points out, in different ways, how ubiquitous and pervasive Jim Crow was in every day Black lives. Mack began to ask Pitts how important he thinks it is for people to understand this and understand the legacy of it all, even now. "I think it's critically important for people to understand all of our history, and certainly our race and Jim Crow in this country. I think it's sad that a lot of us choose not to know it. I want to be clear, I say choose very deliberately. A lot of us have opted out of this. We have white people who say they don't want to know it because it makes them feel bad or guilty. We then have a lot of African-Americans that don't want to hear or know it because it makes them angry. While these are lovely excuses, the fact of the matter is , if you don't know where you came from, we're going to have a hard time trying to figure out where it is that we're going."


Pitts had a lot more to say. See Pitts discuss the book in detail, his research while writing, politics, and today's climate in Black America:


About The Last Thing You Surrender:


This novel focuses in on a trio of very different people, two black, one white, in the Jim Crow South (Alabama) as they face vast changes during World War II.


Private George Simon: An affluent white marine survives Pearl Harbor at the cost of a black messman’s life only to be sent, wracked with guilt, to the Pacific and taken prisoner by the Japanese.


Thelma Gordy: A young black woman, widowed by the same events at Pearl, finds unexpected opportunity and a dangerous friendship in a segregated Alabama shipyard feeding the war.


Luther Hayes: A black man, who as a child saw his parents brutally lynched, is conscripted to fight Nazis for a country he despises and discovers a new kind of patriotism in the all-black 761st Tank Battalion.


You can purchase the book on his website: HERE


About the Author:


Pitts’ devotion to the art and craft of words has yielded many awards, chief among them the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.


That was 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.


He 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 Award For Commentary Writing and was named Feature of the Year in the column writing division by Editor and Publisher magazine. In 2002, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists awarded Pitts its inaugural Columnist of the Year award; in 2016, it named him to its Hall of Fame. In 2002 and in 2009, GLAAD Media awarded Pitts the Outstanding Newspaper Columnist award. In 2017, he was awarded the prestigious Missouri Honor Medal for “distinguished service to journalism.” He has received four honorary doctorates.


Resources: Leonard Pitts Jr.'s "About" section on his website


Want to be a part of the fun? Be sure to join us at the Miami Book Fair! They host events and programs all year round!


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