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Wed, 01.20.1971

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is Published

*This date in 1971 celebrates novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, by Ernest J. Gaines.

The story depicts the struggles of  Blacks as seen through the eyes of the narrator, a woman named Jane Pittman.  She tells of the major events of her life from the time she was a young slave girl in the Antebellum South at the end of the American Civil War. The fiction novel was first published by Bantam Books and was later dramatized in a TV movie in 1974, starring Cicely Tyson.

The lead character, Jane Pittman was born sometime before the war. She was a slave from the day she was born. She lived on a plantation in Louisiana until she was 11. Her slave name was Ticey.  When the war broke out, a Union soldier named Mr. Brown came through the property. Mr. Brown was from Ohio. He told Jane that Ticey was a slave name, and that she should have another name suitable for a free person. He gave her the name of Jane, after his daughter.

When the Union soldiers left, Pittman refused to answer to the name of Ticey, and she was beaten badly by her mistress. Throughout her life Pittman was an independent, determined, hardworking, watchful person who always confronted difficult people and situations head-on. She grew wiser and wiser as she grew older.  She saw firsthand the terrible effects of racial discrimination and hatred.  Pittman never had children of her own, she never was formally married, and she outlived all of her loved ones. When she was more than 100 years old, Pittman made an important stand for the rights of Blacks by drinking from a "Whites Only" fountain in the courthouse at Bayonne.  Pittman lived to be 110 years old.

She lived through the war and Reconstruction. Pittman was at the turn of the century the introduction of the automobile, the radio, the Depression and both World Wars.  She saw the victories of Black heroes like Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson, and into the time of the 20th century American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  She was an eyewitness too many changes in America and in the status of African America during her lifetime.

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