Was the story of Miss Jane Pittman a real one? I love history, and I want to know more about her.

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mwestwood's profile pic

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No, there was no real person named Jane Pittman.  However, Ernest J. Gaines did base the character in his novel, "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," upon a real person, his Aunt Augusteen, a disabled woman who had no legs. While Ernest himself and others worked in the potato fields of a plantation for fifty cents a day, Aunt Augusteen cared for the children.

Gaines's aunt had a powerful influence upon him, and he incorporated strong black female characters such as Jane Pittman into his novels. To make "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" seem more authentic, Gaines had Jane tell her story herself.  This method is in keeping with the oral tradition of African-Americans since the days of slavery.

ms-charleston-yawp's profile pic

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I regret to inform you that there was never a woman named Miss Jane Pittman (at least not the particular one that narrates the novel).  In fact, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is classified as historical fiction.  As such, the characters are fiction, but set in a real place and time and often revealing situations that actually happened.  In this case, these situations revolved around African-American women and the institution of slavery.

Originally known as "Ticey," as a young girl, she is told by a Union Soldier to exert her independence over her slave master.  When Ticey does so, she is beaten so very badly that she is unable to have children.  Eventually, she takes the name "Jane Brown" and eventually becomes "Miss Jane Pittman" when she falls in love with and lives with the horse trainer with the last name of Pittman.  Due to her extreme independence, Jane does not marry Mr. Pittman (even though she does take his name), as a result she remains "Miss Jane Pittman" her entire life.  As she tells her own story, Jane is now over 100 years old.  She has been enslaved, freed, and now experienced racism. 

Jimmy I have a scar on my back I got when I was a slave. I'll carry it to my grave. You got people out there with this scar on their brains, and they will carry that scar to their grave. Talk with them, Jimmy.

Even though Miss Jane Pittman does not exist, she represents all of the determined African-American women in the Deep South willing to exhibit their independence in many ways, either from slavery or from the racism of whites.

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user3934114's profile pic

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No, miss Jane Pittman is hypothetically not a real person. Even though it says its an autobiography in the title it is technically a novel.

jahiry's profile pic

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Miss Jane Pittman is a fictional character based on a relative of the author Ernest J.Gaines. The character who is close to one hundred years old in the story, relates her memories of slavery and reconstruction from the perspective of the African American. Although Miss Jane Pittman is a fictional character she represents the past experiences of many women of color who lived during this period of time. By using her memories/stories to tell her story, Gaines also pays homage to the traditional African practice of sharing history through storytelling.

sclarke81's profile pic

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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is a truly celebrated novel by Ernest James Gaines. While the character of Miss Jane Pittman is fictional, Gaines brings to life the struggle of African American culture in the rural South.

The story of Miss Jane Pittman is an interview with a black woman who is 110 years old. Her life experiences are documented from her emancipation as a slave in the 1800s to her role in the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s.

The story begins with Jane being a slave girl on a Louisiana plantation. After the Civil War, she and some former slaves begin their trek north. During this journey, they run into "patrollers" who kill everyone in the party except Jane and a boy named Ned. Jane becomes sort of a mother figure to Ned after this tragedy and they continue traveling. They, ultimately, settle on a plantation owned by a man named Mr. Bone. Jane soon recalls that life on this plantation took a turn for the worst when Colonel Dye took over. She felt as though she was enslaved again. Ned gets involved with a group that helps blacks settle in the North and he, eventually, moves to Kansas after being threatened for his work. Jane becomes common-law wife to Joe Pittman who ends up being killed after a series of events involving Jane freeing a wild stallion that he was trying to break.

After all the painful memories, Jane moves eight miles away to the Sampson Plantation. Jane begins a new life here, however, she still feels the plague of racism.  

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