Writers

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Ernest J. Gaines

1933-2019

Ernest James Gaines (January 15, 1933 – 2019) was an American author whose works have been taught in college classrooms and translated into many languages, including French, Spanish, German, Russian and Chinese. Ernest was the oldest of 12 children, was raised by his aunt, and lived in what had previously been slave quarters in Louisiana.
He grew up listening to the stories of the slavery years up until 1865, and of what's called 'reconstruction' in the post-slavery years from 1865-1977. Ernest's mother and stepfather wanted the boy to have a better education than he could get in Louisiana, so he lived in San Francisco with them from the age of 15. Ernest Gaines shot to fame in 1974 when his 1971 novel, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, was adapted for television. The character of Miss Jane Pittman is based on the aunt who raised him. Gaines was a MacArthur Foundation fellow, was awarded the National Humanities Medal, and was inducted into the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) as a Chevalier.