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Ernest Gaines

Louisiana Legends



Genre: Interview

Place Covered: Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, Vallejo, Solano County, California

Copyright Holder: Louisiana Educational Television Authority

Date Issued: 1982-12-24

Duration: 00:27:37

Subjects: PLANTATIONS | Segregation | Writing/Composition | Literature | Fiction | INTEGRATION | LIBRARIES | River Lake Plantation (La.) | Gaines, Ernest J., 1933- | Authors | Smith, Valerian E., 1926-1992 | University of Louisiana at Lafayette | African Americans | Slavery


  • Dupaquier, John Composer
  • George, Beth Executive Producer
  • Fourrier, Clay Director
  • Fowler, Ken Producer
  • Breazeale, Kathryn Producer
  • Weill, Gus Interviewer
  • Gaines, Ernest J. Interviewee


This episode of the series “Louisiana Legends” from December 24, 1982, features an interview with Ernest J. Gaines conducted by Gus Weill. Gaines is the author of several novels, including “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “A Lesson Before Dying.” He discusses: growing up on River Lake Plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, where he worked in the fields and cared for his siblings and crippled aunt; segregation as a way of life for African Americans in the 1940s; putting on plays; moving to Vallejo, California, and experiencing integration; the importance of the library in allowing him to explore a wide range of authors; his recognition of the lack of novels by black writers at the library; his experience in the military; his need to tell stories; the origins and reception of “The Autobiography of Jane Miss Pittman”; his view of the “Roots” miniseries; slavery as a horrible experience; collaborating with Valerian Smith on a musical; serving as a “writer-in-residence” and teacher at the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette; and his writing habits.