Ernest J. Gaines

Ernest James Gaines (born January 15, 1933) is an African-American author. His works have been taught in college classrooms and translated into many languages, including French, Spanish, German, Russian and Chinese. Four of his works have been made into television movies. His 1993 novel, A Lesson Before Dying, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. Gaines has been a MacArthur Foundation fellow, awarded the National Humanities Medal, and inducted into the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) as a Chevalier. Gaines was among the fifth generation of his sharecropper family to be born on the plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. This became the setting and premise for many of his later works. He was the oldest of 12 children, raised by his aunt, who was crippled and had to crawl to get around the house. Although born generations after the end of slavery, Gaines grew up impoverished, in old slave quarters on the plantation. Gaines' first years of school took place in the plantation church. When the children were not picking cotton in the fields, a visiting teacher came for five to six months of the year to provide basic education.

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