Describe the significance of the following quote from The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman: "Anytime a child is born, the old people look in his face and ask him if he's the One."

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lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

These words, spoken by Miss Jane Pittman herself toward the end of the book, are a reference to the black community's hope to one day have raised a child who will grow properly to adulthood and emerge as a leader who will "save" African-Americans from what often appears to be a fairly hopeless future.  Although the community elders more or less "selected" the character Jimmy to become this "savior", collectively monitoring his growth and development in the spirit of the phrase "it takes a village to raise a child", their intention is that he will grow as a leader in the church and exercise his influence from a theological vantage point; Jimmy does become a leader, in fact, but his activism develops in the political, rather than church arena, as he gets involved in the burgeoning Civil Rights movement.  Unfortunately, this change in direction costs him his life when he organizes a demonstration in nearby Bayonne. 

Jimmy's positioning in the novel as a sort of "savior" is probably intended to evoke a connection to the savior of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ.  Although there are clear differences, one might see Jimmy as a man who, like Jesus, died a martyr, and whose death galvanized a world-changing movement.

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