Novelist Gaines

Author Ernest J. Gaines during a 1993 interview in the New York offices of Alfred A. Knopf Publishers.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Fans of the late Louisiana author Ernest J. Gaines, who wrote such storied works as “A Lesson Before Dying” and “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” are remembering his work as part of Black History Month celebrations.

The Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana hosted a Feb. 19 event in Gaines’ memory, according to a news release from Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.

Gaines died on Nov. 5, 2019. He grew up on a small Louisiana plantation, experiences that later translated into his rich literary characters. “A Lesson Before Dying,” published in 1993, was an acclaimed classic. Both “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1971) and “A Gathering of Old Men” (1984) became honored television movies.

The program was hosted by Darrell Bourque, who is a two-time Louisiana Poet Laureate, a close friend of Gaines and a member of the Ernest J. Gaines Center. The center is located at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and is dedicated to Gaines and his work.

Other people who took part include: Marcia Gaudet, the center’s founder and board president; Cheylon Woods, director of the center; Louisiana State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson; and Gaines’ wife, Dianne Gaines.

“The arc of Gaines’ novels and dramatizations of them, such as ‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’ and ‘A Lesson Before Dying,’ as well as his own life lived through the civil rights movement, provide lessons in Black history for America,” observed Rebecca Hamilton, State Librarian of Louisiana.

“An enduring legacy of Gaines is the impact his work will continue to have in raising our country’s awareness of the racial and social divides that remain as important today as ever.”

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