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Colson Whitehead Will Appear on 60 MINUTES

The episode premieres Sunday, Feb. 28 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.  

Colson Whitehead Will Appear on 60 MINUTES

In his two Pulitzer-Prize winning novels, Colson Whitehead sees the historic plight of Black Americans. The characters in those books were victims of chance because of the times and their skin color - a familiar and frightening feeling for a novelist of color whose own existence depended on whether his slave ancestors survived the cruel circumstances of their capture and enslavement. Whitehead describes this "existential terror" and discusses his writing process in a profile by John Dickerson on the next edition of 60 MINUTES Sunday Feb. 28 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. 

Whitehead writes of the Black experience and history in "The Underground Railroad" and "The Nickel Boys," novels that were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction, making him the only author to have achieved that distinction for consecutive works. Writing those books, says Whitehead, "I was thinking about the sort of existential terror of being descended from slaves.  I realized that, you know, I shouldn't be here. It's just-- it's a real miracle that this person wasn't killed when they were kidnapped in Africa, in the Middle Passage, on this plantation," he tells Dickerson.  

This experience relates directly to the police killings that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement, he says. "So much of what happens in "The Nickel Boys" and "Underground Railroad" resonates with what we see every day in our headlines...they are connections I DON'T have to force.  Young Black people being murdered for being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong skin color. And if they'd left the house five minutes earlier, their whole lives would have been different."  
The novelist often considers these injustices the Black Lives movement protests against - it's part of the Black experience. "I think about what I feel when I see a police car or four cops hanging out in front of the subway," he says. "There is an instance of, 'Are they are here for me?' And I think about how strange it is just to walk in your own city and have that thought. And I think, 'Am I alone?' And I realize I'm not alone."   

Dickerson also speaks with Whitehead's wife, Julie Barer, a literary agent. His novels have sold over 4 million copies; "Harlem Shuffle," his next due in September, is a crime novel that explores morality.  

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