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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  9,663 Ratings  ·  267 Reviews

Miss Jane Pittman. She is one of the most unforgettable heroines in American fiction, a woman whose life has come to symbolize the struggle for freedom, dignity, and justice. Ernest J. Gaines’s now-classic novel—written as an autobiography—spans one hundred years of Miss Jane’s remarkable life, from her childhood as a slave on a Louisiana plantation to the Civil Rights er
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 27th 2009 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published January 1st 1971)
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Nov 01, 2012 Lawyer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Lawyer by: Jessie, Member goodreads group On the Southern Literary Trail
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman: Ernest J. Gaines' novel of the long journey to freedom

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
was a selection chosen by members of On the Southern Literary Trail as a group read for January, 2016. Special thanks to Trail member Jane for nominating this work.

A Note from the incomplete reader

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman was originally published by Ernest J. Gainesthrough the Dial Press in 1971. A second printing followed in 1
Dec 06, 2015 Connie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Connie by: On the Southern Literary Trail
Miss Jane Pittman is a spunky survivor, a strong black woman over 100 years old. She narrates the story of her life from her days as a slave, after emancipation, and during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. In a Missouri Review interview in 1999, Ernest J. Gaines said that he grew up on a plantation in Louisiana around his handicapped aunt and other older people who visited her. Jane is a fictional character based on the kinds of experiences those people might have gone through, using their vocab ...more
Tom Mathews
Dec 14, 2015 Tom Mathews rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in black history.
How does one write a novel that encompasses the entire black experience from slavery to the Civil Rights Era? Well, if the author is Ernest J. Gaines then you tell it through the eyes of someone who lived through it all. begins with Ticey, a ten or eleven year-old slave girl who assumes a new name, Jane, at the advice of a Yankee soldier. It ends almost 100 years later when Jane, now Miss Jane Pittman, becomes witness to the birth of a new era of freedom.

This is a story that one thinks one know
Dec 31, 2015 Camie rated it liked it
The author using the guise of an autobiography, has Miss Jane Pittman, who lives to be around 110, telling her story and it's quite an interesting one as she lived through being a slave, to emancipation, and on through to the civil rights era. I think I read this first in Junior High-school , that's probably why it reminded me of a school assignment. It has it's dramatic moments but overall Jane comes across as a bit unemotional and the book generally lacked the detail I wanted more of. I also d ...more
Diane Barnes
Dec 25, 2015 Diane Barnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ernest J. Gaines has given us a fictional autobiography of a woman who has attained legendary status in literature, and in film history as well. Miss Jane lived through black history, first as a slave in Louisiana, then as a strong, courageous woman trying to maintain her sense of worth and dignity while being treated as less than human by white southerners. The journey took her from being set free as a slave at 10 years old through 100 years, from reconstruction to the Civil Rights era, at whic ...more
Jan 16, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: southern
I love Gaines easy writing style. One the best protagonist in southern literature. Excellent!
This is fiction, you guys! It is written in "the guise of tape-recorded recollections of a woman born as a slave in the 1850s." This line is taken directly from the book.

The book description here at GR goes on to say:

"In this woman Ernest Gaines has created a legendary figure, a woman equipped to stand beside William Faulkner's Dilsey in The Sound And The Fury."

There is one huge difference. Faulkner's writing skills are so very much better than Gaines'. The two are incomparable. Even if Faulkner
Feb 17, 2012 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am kind of stingy with my ratings -- I would make it a 2 1/2 if I could, because it was better than "okay" but I didn't quite "like" it. I didn't DISlike it, either. After reading "The Help," I wanted to read some more historical fiction taking place during the Civil Rights Movement. This biography was suggested to me by the librarian, and it was a pretty easy read. It followed the life of Jane Pittman from her childhood as a slave through emancipation, trying to get out of Louisiana, then as ...more
Dee's Reading Zone
This powerful autobiography was the catalyst that lead me to reading more slave narrative in the late 90's.
Sep 24, 2007 Ivannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Ivannah by: 1001 novels to read before you die
Shelves: favorites
I read this book in two sittings. It wasn't easy at first, but once you got introduced to Miss Jane Pittman the rest was easy. How could you not love a character, a woman, so enduring? How could you not weep at the loss of her only "son". This story is written richly, and with so much emotion that you can't help but to pull for her. Though, the subject matter was dark, the book itself wasn't dark. There were times when you heart ached because of all the suffering, and despair. When they were hop ...more
Chandler Alexander
My favorite Ernest J. Gaines novel!
Every since I was a little girl I have had a strange obsession with the past. 19th century black slavery is my favorite era, than 1940's, than 1960's. I love the Harlem Renaissance, I love all things civil rights, but it's something about 19th century slavery. Cabins, white women dresses with the petticoat underneath, dirt roads, the "big house," horse and buggies for cars, the dialect, the stories, and most importantly the messages. My mother's ex-boyfriend forced me to watch the entire miniser ...more
Oct 05, 2007 E rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This is a very impressive epic adorned with humor and founded in the lessons of overcoming tragedy either through battle or sheer resilience. As a novel itself it is wonderfully written in a lyrical prose with great, revealing dialogue. It is, however, much more than a novel.

I had to read it over ten years ago in eighth grade history class, yet I can still recall the many different stories comprising the biography, nearly chronicling all the various manifestations of race relations throughout Am
Jan 06, 2016 Wayne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ernest Gaines creates a legendary character in Miss Jane Pittman, a woman of 110 whose tape-recorded recollections and heroic experiences manage to carry the reader through American history and race relations from the Civil War through the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. I was reminded of 'The Odyssey', 'Little Big Man', 'Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All', and other novels that use this form, but Miss Jane Pittman's voice might be the most memorable of them all. Quick paced, po ...more
Jean Poulos
February is Black History Month. I usually attempt to read a book about black history or read a book written by a black author or both. This year I decided to read a novel I read back in 1971 when the book first came out. Since then the book has become a classic. A movie was made in 1974 starring Cicely Tyson. I sort of remember the movie was good. I think I shall check to see if Amazon has the movie and will watch it after I finish the book.

The book is fiction but is written in the style of ora
Anneta Susan
May 25, 2012 Anneta Susan rated it really liked it
The voice this author had impressed me and was the first thing that made this book a true classic. His writing was declamatory and very clear. I respected how the author could tell the stories of other characters through the narrative of Miss. Jane Pittman and make each one, from the teachers to her son unforgettable. At first when Jane Pittman didn't achive arriving in Colorado I was concerned with what the author was going to do next and how he could make her into a heroine. She was a strong p ...more
Mya Sunshine
Apr 05, 2013 Mya Sunshine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ernest Gaines has been trying for so long to get in interview with the legendary Miss.Jane Pittman. This book practically covers her whole life story going from her childhood when she was still in slavery to when the war was going to her sons life to where she is now.
I have read the book so many times but i always feel that I am learning something new every time I read it again.As of my response to this story I feel like he did a really good job putting it together and making sure that he got al
Overall this is a great book. I'm wondering why it took me so long to read it. Seems like everyone around me had this as required reading in high school. I haven't even seen the movie yet (which I will be doing soon). This book focused on Miss Jane Pittman, who through her narrative, described what happened through different time periods, including slavery up until the Civil Rights period. While it kept my interest for the first half of the book, near the end I started to lose interest. Maybe it ...more
Mar 13, 2012 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember watching the movie "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" with Cicely Tyson. I remember reading this years ago. I read it on my kindle this time. A very good historical novel. a young man goes to the house of Jane Pittman. she is over 100 years old. the current time is the early 1960s. it is during the civil rights time. Miss Jane Pittman is being interviewed since she was about 11 when the civil war ended and she was a slave at the time. This book takes Miss Jane from that time to ...more
Lisa James
May 29, 2013 Lisa James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an EXCEPTIONAL historical fiction book written in an autobiographical style. Miss Jane is an unforgettable, vibrant character. To live to the age of 110 or more, & having known what slavery was, & her travels & life, is fascinating. I literally almost couldn't put it down. When the book ends, in the 1960's, abruptly, I was left gasping, thinking, WHY???? It's a powerful read..... anyone that has a heart for history, etc will love this. I RARELY rate a book as a 5 star read, b ...more
Feb 26, 2009 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gaines is a master with voices. I came away from the book feeling sad, because I wanted to spend more time with Miss Jane.

I also learned some surprising things about history-- from slavery and the civil war, to the civil rights period--details I haven't seen elsewhere.

It's hard to say which I like more-- A Lesson Before Dying or this book. I think Lesson is probably richer on more levels, but like I said, Miss Jane it just someone you really want to know. I can't wait to read more of Gaines' bo
Feb 26, 2008 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I adored this book. Its sensitivity in discussing relations among southerners of all ages and colors during a time when the courts were legalizing Jim Crow segregation was rich and provocative. Frankly, I thought the book did a better job of explaining life in the Jim Crow South than half the history books I read.

I'm sure it had a great ending, too, but unfortunately some a$$hole stole it, along with my car. And now the library wants $94 to replace. Ay yay yay.
Sydney R
Jan 21, 2016 Sydney R rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is about Jane Pitman and her journey to Ohio. The book took place when Jane was 11-12yrs old girl who was in slavery. One day the said she was free to go. As the group of free slaves left to find a place to stay.. This story is based on Jane and Neds adventure.
I thought this book was a little bit boring at the begening but then was quite instersting at the end.
Maya B
I thoroughly enjoyed this read. This was also the first book I have ever read by this author. this was an easy book to read. the author's writing style pulled me in from the very first page. I'm glad I finally took the time to read the book after seeing the movie so many times throughout my childhood
Esther Bradley-detally
the best
Feb 22, 2017 Kristi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3 and 1/2 stars. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a novel.
Apr 21, 2010 Alexa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines is an inspiring autobiography. The reason why I chose to read this autobiography is because the cover caught my eye. The picture of Cicely Tyson on the front cover which plays Jane Pittman. I haven’t seen the movie but I’m sure that I will better understand times from before and the struggle of surviving. I also picked it because biographies inspire me most of the time because they always have struggles they overcome to become a greater ...more
Maia B.
I couldn't finish.

The first hundred pages were great, don't get me wrong. Jane fascinated me; her "voice" was clear and strong and her personality came through distinctly. The events she lived through were really interesting. Then...well, she sort of gave up going to Ohio.

After a while, she began to say things like, "I found a job and stayed there ten years." This Robinson Crusoe way of skipping over vast stretches of time drove me crazy. And then Mary Agnes and Tee was starting to soun
Feb 15, 2014 538pm_stephanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1960-s
The novel tells the story of Miss Jane Pittman, a 110 year old African American woman who tells the story of her life. Her story spans from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the Vietnam War, highlighting different historical events and figures. Jane's accounts help put in perspective what it must have been like to be an African American during those times and highlight why the civil rights movement was so important for our country. While the story is told from Jane's view point, the i ...more
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Born to a sharecropping family, Ernest Gaines was picking cotton in the fields by age nine and only attended school five or six months a year. When he was fifteen, he moved to California to join his mother who had relocated during World War II, and began writing. He attended San Francisco State University, served in the army, and won a writing fellowship to Stanford University. Gaines has been a M ...more
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“Anytime a child is born, the old people look in his face and ask him if he's the One.” 6 likes
“My master jecked up my dress and gived my mistress the whip and told her to teach me a lesson. Every time she hit me she asked me what I said my name was. I said Jane Brown. She hit me again: what I said my name was. I said Jane Brown.” 2 likes
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