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A biography of jane pitman formerly known as a slave named ticey

Special thanks to Trail member Jane for nominating this work. Gaines through the Dial Press in 1971. Gaines' novel of the long journey to freedom was a selection chosen by members of On the Southern Literary Trail as a group read for January, 2016.

A second printing followed in 1972. The Second Printing When Gaine's novel was filmed as a television movie in 1974 sales mushroomed with the issue of the mass-market Bantam Paperback tie-in edition. Cicely Tyson played the title role from approximately age 23 to 110. I was twenty-two years old.

But it was thirty-eight years later, as a sixty year old man, before I read the novel. It was the Bantam movie tie-in edition I read, after checking it out of my local public library. Now that check-outs and check-ins are digitized, it is no longer possible to see how often a book has been checked out, or when it was read. But you can still tell from the condition of a book when it has passed through generations of hands.

The spine was loose, bowed from having been placed down many times, and the cover had a distinct curl indicating one or readers had been cover and page benders, turning what had been read to the back of the volume.

  1. I began to assuage my guilt over my ignorance of an entire culture's literature.
  2. For this outspokenness, Ned pays the great price and plays the great role. Washington , and Frederick Douglass.
  3. Almost alone among the quiet, backwater congregation, Miss Jane understands what Jimmy is saying. The novel shows how formerly enslaved people lived after freedom.
  4. In fact, Jane does not and she begins to discover that there is no place to hide in the United States.

Previous readers had dog-eared the pages. Others had underlined passages, some times in pencil, some times in ink. Inevitably the same passages had been marked more than once, starred, underscored in different colors, but clearly having some impact on many readers. But I was not one of them. I was born and raised in Alabama.

No book by an African-American author appeared as a part of my curriculum through high school. While I was raised by my mother and family to "Sir" and "Ma'am" any person, no matter the color of their skin, neither had they ever been exposed to African American literature of any sort. It was only in college that I was introduced to Charles W. Chestnutt ,briefly, by my favorite literature professor O. Emerson, during his Southern Literature Course which I took in 1973.

I knew of the injustice suffered by Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird and idolized Atticus Finch because he fought for justice for an innocent man.

I read The Confessions of Nat Turnerwas furious at the thought of slavery, but wondered why the story was written by a white man, William Styron.

  • Even knowin' he was going to die;
  • He carefully signed each copy, nodding, as he looked at each one.

It occurred to me to ask if I were a literary racist. It was during my work as an Assistant District Attorney working child abuse and domestic violence cases that Alice Walker began a literary awakening for me with The Color Purple. I began to assuage my guilt over my ignorance of an entire culture's literature. But I wondered where were the male writers?

Surely there was someone other than Chestnutt. Oh, I could read Booker T.

Washingtonand Frederick Douglass. I have their books. But I wanted someone more contemporary. And then, thanks to a member of our goodreads group On the Southern Literary Trail there he was. Gaines, an author I'm grateful to have discovered My reading of Gaines has not followed my usual practice.

I've read him as I've found him. Each has affected me deeply, but I chose to share my thoughts regarding Jane Pittman because of the magnificent voice of the protagonist and the sweep of history seen through the eyes of one person, with the assistance of those who shared parts of their lives with her and lived around her.

Gaines structures his novel as a series of interviews of Jane Pittman conducted by an unseen and unnamed teacher of history. The "Teacher" emerges much as Homer does in The Odysseycalling on Jane Pittman to tell of her personal odyssey to freedom from the final days of her life as a slave during the American Civil War up to the Civil Rights Movement of the early 1960s.

A Note From The Teacher "I had been trying to get Miss Jane Pittman to tell me her story of her life for several years now, but each time I asked her she told me there was no story to tell. I told her she was over a hundred years old, she had been a slave in this country so there had to be a story. So I asked him when he wanted to get started.

He had one of those recorders. One thing led to something else. Sometimes I wasn't able to remember. But there were all those of my people around me who were my memory when it was gone.

The Teacher said it was all our story. I guess it was.

When you are born a slave like I was you don't own anything. Not even your ma'am and Pap get to name you. The Mistress named me Ticey.

I didn't start out as Jane Pittman.

It was near the end of the war. The Secesh come through. Mistress told me to take water out to them. One boy said if it was up to him, he would let the niggers go, but it wasn't up to him. Then the Yankees came on following the Secesh. It was a Yankee soldier gave me his daughter's own name, Jane Brown. He told me after the war to come see him in Ohio. She had Master hold me down and she beat me with a cat-o-nine tales an' put me to work in the fields.

I don't even know what happened to my Pap. I barely remember my Ma'am. They killed her when I was bout five. It was more than a year after the war Master told us we was emancipated.

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

We could stay but he couldn't pay us nothin'. But we could work on shares. It was slavery all over again. About half of us left. Big Laura you'd call the leader. She carried her baby daughter. I watched after her boy Ned. We didn't know where we was goin' or how we was goin' to live.

We only knew we were free at last. Then one day the Patrollers found us. They was like the Ku Klux.

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They killed ever one of us except me n' Ned. I had been able to keep him quiet. I found big Laura. Them men had even killed Laura's girl child. The Patrollers I made up my mind I was gonna get to Ohio no matter what. Ned, he took two stones, flint stones from his Ma'am. He carried them with him wherever he went. I guess it was his way of remembering his Ma'am. But I think ever time he struck them rocks together what he was makin' was the spark of freedom Laura had wanted for him n' ever body else.

Each day we walked. But we was still in Luzanna. I hung on to finding freedom in Ohio until one night we came up on the house of an old white man. He had been a sailor at one point in his life. He had maps ever where in his house. He told me I'd have to cross Mississippi or up through Arkansas n' I might take my whole life gettin' to Ohio. He told me he could be Secesh or he could be a friend of my people.

See a Problem?

You know I think he was a friend of my people. He could jus' as easy told me sure you take on off for Ohio. So I decided to stay in Luzanna n' find my freedom there some day. I took work on a plantation. Ned was in a school. I never looked on Ned as mine until his teacher had him read his lesson to me n' I was so proud of him I loved him as if he were my own.

  • The film, however, has some noticeable divergences from the novel;
  • The film appears to be a series of flashbacks that happen during this time of Jimmy's Civil Rights organizing;
  • Sometimes I wasn't able to remember;
  • It will be a clean slate for others to begin underlining the passages they love and to make their own notes;
  • But even though Gaines rings a remarkable variation on the old story, he nonetheless presents the figure of the richly named Mary Agnes LeFabre as a figure of deep melancholy and exquisite beauty exactly contrasting with the black black-women;
  • She had Master hold me down and she beat me with a cat-o-nine tales an' put me to work in the fields.

The only good that come to my people after the war was when the Beero showed up. We were freed men and women.

  1. And his main fictional device to establish that truth is to tell the history of the hundred years since Emancipation as the story of one woman.
  2. The "Teacher" emerges much as Homer does in The Odyssey , calling on Jane Pittman to tell of her personal odyssey to freedom from the final days of her life as a slave during the American Civil War up to the Civil Rights Movement of the early 1960s.
  3. He told us we hadn't even begun to fight in Luzanna.
  4. I went back to Luzanna.