Celebrating Black History Month at the VCU Libraries
Reviewed by Monique Prince, Undergraduate Services Librarian
Written in the form of an oral history, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is the story of a 110-year-old former slave. She recounts the major events of her life in Louisiana, including slavery, emancipation, Reconstruction, segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement. Jane Pittman rarely strays from the various plantations where she lives and works, so it is a much more localized perspective than other novels covering these time periods, such as Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man or Richard Wright's Native Son. As such, much is revealed through her relationships with others, including her adopted son, Ned Douglass, who becomes a martyr for civil rights, her first husband, Joe Pittman, and the other women in her community. Jane Pittman is one of the most memorable African American characters—she is aware of her flaws and strengths, and she makes difficult decisions, at times selflessly encouraging loved ones to pursue their path even when that path takes them far from her.