MacArthur Fellows Program

Ernest J. Gaines

Writer | Class of 1993

Lafayette, Louisiana
60 at time of award

Ernest Gaines is a writer of fiction who illustrates the insidious effects of racism through his depictions of personal relationships influenced by social pressures in the South during the pre-civil-rights era.

Gaines’s novels are based in the rural folk culture in which he was raised, with settings in the bayous, rivers, shacks, plantations, and parishes of mid-twentieth-century Louisiana.  Yet, his characters have the rare quality of historical eloquence that transcend mere regionalism.  His books include Catherine Carmier (1964), Of Love and Dust (1967), Bloodline (1968), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971), A Long Day in November (1971), In My Father’s House (1978), A Gathering of Old Men (1983), A Lesson Before Dying (1993), and Mozart and Leadbelly: Stories and Essays (2005).  Gaines’s mastery of the first-person, storytelling voice establishes his work firmly in the African-American literary tradition that draws upon memory of the past.

Gaines is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Southwestern Louisiana and, since 1983, has been a writer-in-residence there.  He was has also served as a writer-in-residence at Denison University (1971), Stanford University (1981), and at Whittier College (1982).

Gaines received a B.A. (1957) from San Francisco State College and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University (1958-59).

Last updated January 1, 2005

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