Ernest James Gaines was born in Oscar, Louisiana on a plantation in 1933. Of African American heritage, he was a good sport with his family and understood that hard work was a necessity in life. At the young age of only nine he aided his parents in the field working for fifty cents a day. He looked up to his handicap aunt, Augustine Jefferson, as she was his role model in his early youth. She inspired him and opened his eyes to setting a strong path for the generations to come. His mother and step father uprooted and moved to California when Gaines was fifteen. This was a great opportunity for his passion to read and write since the public library was for all races. The lack of African American study or authors pushed him even more to fill the shelves with the history of his race. At seventeen he sent his first novel to a publisher, but this was soon rejected and sent back. Later in his life he rewrote this and sent it again. While attending San Francisco State College he wrote a short story that was published in 1956. Two years later after graduating he studied creative writing at Stanford University until 1959. Gaines has written many short stories, novels, and has won many of awards as well, including the National Books Critic Circle Award. He was given most of his attention from the public after he published Of Love and Dust in 1967. Four years later The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman declared him as a literary icon for American fiction.
Jane is a young slaved girl assumed to be eleven years old, not knowing her true age due to losing her parents, on a plantation in Louisiana in the 1860’s. She is given her name from a Yankee corporal because he feels that her slave name, “Ticey”, is unsuitable for her. He informs her that he is from Ohio and that if she ever gains the opportunity to make her way north that she should do so. After the Civil War ends and slaves are now free she joins a group of former slaves and makes her journey north towards Ohio. The travelers run into a group of southern patrollers that kill every one of them except Big Laura’s toddler son, Ned, and Jane. Only about eight years older than Ned, Jane cares for him as if he were from her own womb. The two continue their trip together in hope to find safety in the north, but never make it out of Louisiana.
Tiered and worn down Jane and Ned settle at Mr. Bone’s plantation. Here she works clearing fields in order to support herself and the young boy as well as provides for him to have schooling. Right as things started to appear good for the newly freed slave, the economic failure and racist organizations brought that idea out of sight. The reconstruction period was a time of rebuilding for about a decade after the war and put African Americans in a position of slavery like treatment. Only now there was no one to claim them. Jane continued to work through the disadvantage while Colonel Dye took over the plantation.
Towards the end of the reconstruction Ned had grown up well educated. He grew to be a bold young man that was greatly inspired by abolitionist Fredrick Douglas. He was so moved by him that he changed his own name to Ned Douglas. At about seventeen years of age Ned had become an organizer of a group that encouraged blacks to leave the south and head north to start new lives. He soon was threatened for his actions and is forced to flee to Kansas. After Ned’s absence Jane has a common-law marriage with Joe Pittman and move to Mr. Clyde’s ranch with his two daughters. Joe becomes his chief breaker and Jane has dreams for years that he will die from a certain stallion. When she thinks she sees this wild horse one day she visits fortune teller that confirms her dream. Out of fear she releases this horse and all of the men chase after it, including Joe, which ends up being the death of him. Out of honor for Joe she keeps his last name and leaves the ranch and moves near Baymore.
Jane is reunited with Ned in 1899. He now...