NewsCovering Louisiana


State library to spotlight Ernest J Gaines at Black History Month program

Posted at 9:43 AM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 10:43:58-05

A tribute to Ernest J. Gaines is set for February at the State Library of Louisiana for Black History Month.

The Louisiana Center for the Book in the State Library of Louisiana will host the event “Gather at the River: A Tribute to Ernest J. Gaines” on Wednesday, February 19, 2020. That celebration will happen from 12:00 - 1:30 p.m. in the Seminar Center of the State of Louisiana, located at 701 North 4th Street, Baton Rouge.

This program, celebrating the life and work of Gaines, will be hosted by his close friend, Gaines Center board member, and two-time Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque and will feature several authors, poets, and others with close personal connections to Gaines reading favorite passages from his work, according to a release.

“Louisiana is arguably the most diverse state in the nation, and we value our rich African-American history and culture,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser. “When we lost Ernest Gaines this past November, we lost a state treasure. The contributions of Ernest Gaines have significantly shaped Louisiana’s literary heritage.”

Gaines was born and raised in Point Coupee Parish, which serves as the backdrop for many of his works, including the Pulitzer Prize nominated and National Book Critics Circle Award winning novel A Lesson Before Dying. He went on to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, have a literary excellence award named in his honor, and be chosen as the first recipient of the annual Louisiana Writer Award in 2000 presented by the State Library’s Louisiana Center for the Book.

“The arc of Gaines’s novels and dramatizations of them, such as The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Lesson Before Dying, as well as his own life lived through the civil rights movement, provide lessons in Black history for America,” observed Rebecca Hamilton, State Librarian of Louisiana. “An enduring legacy of Gaines is the impact his work will continue to have in raising our country’s awareness of the racial and social divides that remain as important today as ever.”

Program participants will include Marcia Gaudet, Professor of English Emerita and founder and board president of the Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Cheylon Woods, Director of the Gaines Center; Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson; and Gaines’s wife, Dianne Gaines, among others.

The presentation is free and open to the public, and attendees are welcome to bring a brown bag lunch. Registration is not required. For more information, visit the State Library of Louisiana website.