facebook linkedin twitter

Leonard Pitts

Leonard Pitts Jr. joined The Miami Herald in 1991 as its pop music critic. In 1994, he began writing a column on pop culture and social issues. Working out of Washington, D.C., Pitts continues to defend and define American culture in unique and interesting ways.

He is the author of several books, including “Freeman,” “Before I Forget,” and “Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood.”

Pitts began writing as a freelance music critic for Soul magazine in 1976 at 18. In the years since, Pitts’ work has appeared in Musician, Spin, TV Guide, Reader’s Digest and Parenting.

In addition, Pitts wrote, produced and syndicated “Who We Are,” an award-winning radio documentary on the history of black America, and has written and produced radio programs on subjects as diverse as Madonna and Martin Luther King Jr.

Pitts is a four-time winner of the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors’ Award for Excellence in Commentary, a five-time winner of the National Headliners Award given by the Press Club of Atlantic City, and a six-time winner of the Green Eyeshade Award given by the Society of Professional Journalists. The Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Editor & Publisher magazine and GLAAD Media, among others, have also honored him. In 2002, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists named Pitts Columnist of the Year, and in 2004 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Readers may contact him via e-mail at [email protected].

Recent Work

She is 8 Years Old
Opinions
She is 8 Years Old
July 22, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

She is 8 years old. That’s ... what? About third grade? Too young for boyfriends. Too young for R-rated movies. Too young for algebra or a learner’s permit. But she has already experienced her second shooting. It happened a little over a week ago in Washington,... Read More

Democracy Worth the Trouble Every Time
Opinions
Democracy Worth the Trouble Every Time
July 14, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

It was, let us say, an interesting weekend for democracy. Call it a tale of two cities. One is Dallas, where thousands of so-called “conservatives” -- the word has less meaning by the day -- gathered in support of Donald Trump and his ongoing efforts to... Read More

Times These Days When You Simply Must Close Your Mind
Opinions
Times These Days When You Simply Must Close Your Mind
April 29, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

Thirty years ago, when I was still a music critic, I received a letter from a lady who informed me in no uncertain terms that I didn’t know what I was talking about. This was after I‘d written about the origins of gospel music, a subject... Read More

We've Failed Our Children
Opinions
We've Failed Our Children
April 23, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

An open letter to the children. We owe you an apology. Meaning all of us in the generations above you. We had one job where you were concerned, and that was to keep you safe. “Save the children,” pleaded a man named Marvin Gaye a long... Read More

Leave These Children Alone!
Opinions
Leave These Children Alone!
April 21, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

Look, I get it, OK? A lot of this, you plain do not understand. Much of it leaves you confused. Well, me too. I have no idea what it must be like to grow up feeling as if you were assigned the wrong body, a girl... Read More

Real Justice Shouldn't Be This Difficult
Opinions
Real Justice Shouldn't Be This Difficult
April 20, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

I sat there trying to remember how to breathe. I suspect I had that in common with people — particularly African-American people — all over the country. Didn’t we all hold our breath as we awaited the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin? Then that... Read More

A Riot is the Language of the Unheard
Opinions
A Riot is the Language of the Unheard
April 15, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

“The anguish we are suffering cannot translate into violence.” So said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey last week in the wake of yet another police killing of yet another unarmed African-American man. The sentiment was altogether fitting and proper, especially given that his city was the epicenter... Read More

It Takes Two Parties to be Bipartisan
Opinions
It Takes Two Parties to be Bipartisan
April 13, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

There is nothing sacred about nine. The number was not carried down from a mountain on stone tablets, nor did it appear in a burning bush. In fact, before the Supreme Court contained nine justices, it contained six, the number fixed when the tribunal was established... Read More

He Was Having a Bad Day
Opinions
He Was Having a Bad Day
March 18, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

He was having a bad day. So said Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesman Jay Baker by way of explaining last week’s mass shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. The suspect, a 21-year-old white man whose name won’t be used here, is said to have told police he... Read More

When Facts Cease to Matter, Consequences Do, Too
Opinions
When Facts Cease to Matter, Consequences Do, Too
March 9, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

My brother-in-law died of hogwash. Another brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, two daughters-in-law, two cousins and several grandchildren are all recovering from hogwash. My wife spent a week in the hospital with hogwash. I tested positive for hogwash, but had few symptoms. “Hogwash,” you may recall, was the... Read More

Right-Wing Media Bad for American Business
Opinions
Right-Wing Media Bad for American Business
February 9, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

‘You think we’re bad for America?’ Sean Hannity of Fox “News” asked that question of Ted Koppel four years ago as the latter was interviewing him on “CBS Sunday Morning.” Yes, answered Koppel, “because you’re very good at what you do and ... you have attracted... Read More

This is Not a Feel-Good Story
Opinions
This is Not a Feel-Good Story
February 4, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

This is not a feel-good story. Of course, it’s easy to see why it has been positioned as one. Certainly, it contains all the elements: vulnerable people, heart-rending need, someone going above and beyond. But this is not a feel-good story. Not to mock or cast... Read More

It is Different, Being Us
Opinions
It is Different, Being Us
February 2, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

An open letter to African-American people: February marks the 95th observation of what started as Negro History Week and later became Black History Month. I wanted to use the occasion to talk about what being Black means, about how it feels, being us. Hearing that, you’re... Read More

Josh Hawley Blind to Irony
Opinions
Josh Hawley Blind to Irony
January 31, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

So last week, Sen. Josh Hawley complained that he was being “silenced.” He lodged this complaint on Fox “News” and in The New York Post. As social media observers promptly pointed out, that’s a level of media exposure that effectively refutes the senator’s claim. But Hawley... Read More

What’s it Going to Take to Shock the GOP Back to Itself?
Opinions
What’s it Going to Take to Shock the GOP Back to Itself?
January 26, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

What is it going to take? For years, that question has weighed upon the rest of us – and even some of its own members – as we watched the Republican Party slide ever deeper into a morass of political extremism, screwball conspiracies, alternate facts and... Read More

America No Longer Lives in an Unpresidented Time
Opinions
America No Longer Lives in an Unpresidented Time
January 19, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

And so we reach the end of an unpresidented era. The reference is, of course, to one of Donald Trump’s many Twitter misspellings, this one found in his 2016 description of the seizure of a US. navy drone. He meant to call it “unprecedented.” But Trump’s... Read More

So What Now?
Opinions
So What Now?
January 10, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

So what now? A few things, actually. But before we get to them, we must recognize last week’s insurrectionist rampage at the Capitol for what it was. It is being seen, and not wrongly, as the angry response of delusional right-wingers lied into believing a presidential... Read More

And So This Is Christmas
Opinions
And So This Is Christmas
December 6, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

And so this is Christmas. So sang John Lennon in 1971. The Vietnam War took 2,414 American lives that year, so the song was a prayer of harmony and peace with a scrim of irony. Nor did the irony end there. Lennon was shot to death... Read More

The Election of 2020 Has Ended at Last
Opinions
The Election of 2020 Has Ended at Last
November 7, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

Forgive me for being the ant at the picnic. Certainly, this is a glad moment, an ecstatic and delirious moment. The election of 2020 has ended at last. Joe Biden is finally the president-elect and Donald Trump is finally consigned to the dank well of ignominy... Read More

Springsteen Wrestles With Death
Opinions
Springsteen Wrestles With Death
November 4, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

Bruce Springsteen is wrestling with death. You hear him as you float high above leafless trees dusted with snow. The scene, captured in creamy tones of black and white, is one of beauty almost unbearably elegiac, sacred in its stillness. Then he speaks, giving words to... Read More

Happy Endings in US History Are Not Guaranteed
Opinions
Happy Endings in US History Are Not Guaranteed
November 1, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

America is not guaranteed. There is, in other words, nothing foreordained about this country someday returning to anything approximating normal. That’s important to keep in mind as we await results of the most critical U.S. election since 1860, when Abraham Lincoln came to power in an... Read More

Dear Jared Kushner
Opinions
Dear Jared Kushner
October 28, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

Dear Jared Kushner: So I see where you think you’ve figured out what’s wrong with Black people. Monday, you shared it on Fox “News.” ”One thing we’ve seen in a lot of the Black community,” you said, “which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump’s policies... Read More

We Will Not Forget
Opinions
We Will Not Forget
October 21, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

You did not stand up. Granted, America faced neither enemy bombers nor terrorist plot, but the threat to her was — still is — no less real. Your country needed you. And you did not stand up. You told yourself party was more important. You told... Read More

Living in an Era Where Misinformation Is Weaponized
Opinions
Living in an Era Where Misinformation Is Weaponized
October 18, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

“Jared Kushner is under federal investigation for diverting money to terrorist organizations according to a guy I met at the gas station who told me he works for the FBI” is something I would never be allowed to publish. “Donald Trump Jr. has an escalating cocaine... Read More

There Is a Fire in the House of Democracy
Opinions
There Is a Fire in the House of Democracy
September 30, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

Just last week, the headlines were inescapable. They stemmed from a story in The Atlantic detailing what amounts to the Republican Party plotting a coup. Which is to say, cooking up Electoral College schemes designed to keep Donald Trump in office even if voters turn him... Read More

We Give a Damn Too Late
Opinions
We Give a Damn Too Late
September 16, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

LOS ANGELES - We gave a damn too late. Sometimes, I think that will be the legacy of this generation. Or maybe I’m just tired of seeing people walking around without masks as if a pandemic had not taken almost 200,000 American lives. Then again, it... Read More

Trump’s Many Lies No Longer Shock Us
Opinions
Trump’s Many Lies No Longer Shock Us
September 13, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

We weren’t going to normalize this. Remember that? Remember the way many of us solemnly vowed we would always maintain the ability to be outraged, hold on to our capacity for shock? Well, after almost four years that have passed like geologic time, that declaration feels... Read More

What Was in It for Them?
Opinions
What Was in It for Them?
September 9, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

The American Cemetery at Normandy sits on a bluff overlooking the beach where, on June 6, 1944, American soldiers waded ashore to begin the invasion of France. The old battlefield is marked with shell craters and gun pits offering mute testimony to the fury of that... Read More

The Year of Our Fragility
Opinions
The Year of Our Fragility
September 2, 2020
by Leonard Pitts

This is almost four months early. Ordinarily, Christmas trees are looking peaked, and George Bailey has long since realized that he had a wonderful life when pundits begin to summarize the year and assign it a theme. But given the eight long months of 2020 we’ve... Read More

Media Owe No Apology to Trump or Anyone Else for Covering Mueller Investigation
Opinions
Media Owe No Apology to Trump or Anyone Else for Covering Mueller Investigation
March 31, 2019
by Leonard Pitts

Apparently, I am supposed to be embarrassed now. That, at least, is my interpretation of a few strange tweets and emails that have come my way in the week since Attorney General William Barr issued his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Donald Trump.... Read More

A Moral Issue We Should All Worry About
Opinions
A Moral Issue We Should All Worry About
March 17, 2019
by Leonard Pitts

If you think you're angry now, wait till you read the court documents. Not that the summaries of a college cheating scandal so massive it briefly bumped Donald Trump from the "Breaking News" chyrons were not enough to make a nun cuss. Indeed, the story offered... Read More

Obscenity's Not Just a Set of Words
Opinions
Obscenity's Not Just a Set of Words
January 9, 2019
by Leonard Pitts

As a general rule, I don't curse a lot. I've found that I can usually express myself effectively enough without it. And it's always seemed to me that foul language, used ubiquitously, loses its primary value, i.e., its ability to... Read More

George H.W. Bush Is Gone, and so Is His Vision of 'A Kinder, Gentler Nation'
Opinions
George H.W. Bush Is Gone, and so Is His Vision of 'A Kinder, Gentler Nation'
December 9, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

On the last night of the Republican National Convention in 1988, the candidate sought to impart to the country a vision of the America it could be. "Some," he said, "would say it's soft and insufficiently tough to care" about troubled children. Read More

This Is What Actual Election Tampering Looks Like
Opinions
This Is What Actual Election Tampering Looks Like
December 5, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

I said it before, I'll say it again. "As this country becomes blacker, browner, gayer, younger, more Hispanic and more Muslim, it is increasingly the case that the GOP cannot win if all voters vote. It cannot win, in other words, without cheating." Read More

The Day We Used Tear Gas Against Children
Opinions
The Day We Used Tear Gas Against Children
November 28, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

The United States is composed of 329 million people spread over 3.8 million square miles. In population and landmass, it's a pretty big place. But those are not the only criteria that matter. Morality matters, too. And on Sunday... Read More

A Few Words About 'Us' and 'Them'
Opinions
A Few Words About 'Us' and 'Them'
November 25, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

"All life is interrelated." -- Martin Luther King Jr. "Imagine all the people, sharing all the world." -- John Lennon A few words about "us" and "them." It is, of course, the baseline division of human existence, probably dating... Read More

GOP Cannot Win Without Cheating
Opinions
GOP Cannot Win Without Cheating
November 21, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

So Georgia voters decided against Stacey Abrams as their governor. Maybe. With all the shenanigans perpetrated by Republicans in that state, we'll never know for sure. Had they not passed a restrictive "exact match" law... Read More

Michelle Obama Tells Her Truth
Opinions
Michelle Obama Tells Her Truth
November 18, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

So now Michelle Obama finally tells her truth. There has always been about her a sense that she did, indeed, have a truth of her own and that it was, if not at odds with the one her husband expressed with high-flown... Read More

What Journalists Do
Opinions
What Journalists Do
November 14, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

"The fact that a man is a newspaper reporter is evidence of some flaw in character." -- Lyndon Johnson "They are a sort of assassins..." -- John Quincy Adams "I look forward to these confrontations with the press to kind of balance up the nice and ... Read More

We Could Lose Our Country, Or Save It
Opinions
We Could Lose Our Country, Or Save It
November 2, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

"What are these politicians going to do for us?" A guy in Texas asked that question a few weeks back on "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," by way of explaining why he won't be voting in the most important midterm election... Read More

Trump Sets a Poisonous Tone
Opinions
Trump Sets a Poisonous Tone
October 31, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

Rob Rogers is an editorial cartoonist who was fired in June after 25 years with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. His departure, he said, came after weeks of tension with a publisher who wanted a more pro-Trump stance. Read More

Young People, the GOP Is Scared of You
Opinions
Young People, the GOP Is Scared of You
October 17, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

A word for young people, people of color and, in particular, young people of color: The Republicans are scared of you. Maybe you find that hard to believe. Maybe you wonder how the party can be scared of you -- or of... Read More

America Doesn't Shrug
Opinions
America Doesn't Shrug
October 14, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

What if the end of the world came and nobody noticed? It's not quite an idle question. You see, something remarkable happened last week. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists... Read More

The Republican Party has Clearly Lost Its Way
Opinions
The Republican Party has Clearly Lost Its Way
October 8, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

The other day, a woman confessed to me that she's a Republican. Republicans may bristle at the verb, but it's used advisedly. The lady admitted her party affiliation the way you would some personal failing. "I don't tell a . . . Read More

Where There's Doubt, Men Get the Benefit Thereof
Opinions
Where There's Doubt, Men Get the Benefit Thereof
October 3, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

Let's get something straight: Men are not the victims here. It is a foolish and offensive line of reasoning, so naturally it has caught traction on the political right. Indeed, for some, it is an article of faith as the... Read More

The Republicans Put On Quite a Show
Opinions
The Republicans Put On Quite a Show
October 1, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

Give the Republicans credit: they worked hard to create the appearance of enlightened compassion. Meaning, of course, Thursday's Senate Judiciary... Read More

'What Boy Hasn't Done This in High School?'
Opinions
'What Boy Hasn't Done This in High School?'
September 26, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

Gina Sosa is not impressed by attempted rape. "What boy hasn't done this in high school?" she asks. "Please, I would like to know." Since she asked so nicely, I went on Twitter... Read More

Hazards of an Era of Digital Lynch Mobs
Opinions
Hazards of an Era of Digital Lynch Mobs
September 21, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged." Jesus preaches that in the book of Luke. But then, Jesus never had Twitter. Or, for that matter, Instagram or Facebook. He never had, in other words, one of the social media platforms on which millions of us ... Read More

Ari Fleischer asks if we're being fair to Brett Kavanaugh
Opinions
Ari Fleischer asks if we're being fair to Brett Kavanaugh
September 19, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

Ari Fleischer wants to know if we're being fair. "How much in society should any of us be held liable today when we've lived a good life, an upstanding life by all accounts, and then something that maybe is an arguable issue, took place in high... Read More

Where have you gone, Bob Woodward
Opinions
Where have you gone, Bob Woodward
September 14, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

"Where have you gone, Bob Woodward? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you." I asked that question in January, repurposing a Paul Simon lyric to implore the dean of American political reporters to help us make sense of the mess that is the Trump White ... Read More

Both-sideism Not Just a Journalistic Problem
Opinions
Both-sideism Not Just a Journalistic Problem
September 12, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

When the history of this era is written, when future generations wonder how a mostly educated and largely literate nation became mired in "truthiness," when they ask how we became so mentally muddled that we lost the ability to identify facts and the capacity to care, ... Read More

A Corporation Takes a Risk to Support a Man who Gave Up His Career for Justice
Opinions
A Corporation Takes a Risk to Support a Man who Gave Up His Career for Justice
September 11, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

Colin Kaepernick is staring at you. It's a black-and-white image, a portrait taken from a distance that feels painfully close, even intimate. Read More

Actually, There Are No 'Adults in the Room' at the White House
Opinions
Actually, There Are No 'Adults in the Room' at the White House
September 11, 2018
by Leonard Pitts

For a man who places such a premium on loyalty, Donald Trump inspires remarkably little. Bad enough his administration is a sieve, embarrassing accounts of bungled phone calls with foreign leaders and cheeseburger-fueled rants with cronies regularly showing up in the news. Bad enough top aides... Read More

In The News

Health

Voting

News From The Well
scroll top