The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

by: Ernest J. Gaines

Important Quotations Explained

In closing I wish to thank all the wonderful people who were at Miss Jane's house through those long months of interviewing her, because this is not only Miss Jane's autobiography, it is theirs as well.

The editor makes this statement in the very last paragraph of the Introduction. The quote demonstrates the editor's desire that Miss Jane's autobiography serve as a communal narrative of black experience since slavery. Even though the story primarily focuses upon her life, many others experienced the events that she lived through, such as slavery, fleeing slavery, and Reconstruction. Even the particulars from later portions of Jane's life are communal. For example, not all black people in the South would have known about Ned Douglass's murder, but almost everyone would have known about someone who was similarly lynched. Likewise, not all black people lived on the Samson plantation but many lived on one that was similar. Ernest Gaines carefully studied individual histories of ex-slaves before he created the character of Jane Pittman. In fact, he said that because her story seems so real, he has often received letters from readers who argue against the idea that Jane is fictional. The fact that many people believe that Jane is real testifies to the communal nature of her story.