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The Autobiography of Miss Pittman

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The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman begins with a note from the editor, who is a local schoolteacher near the plantation where Jane Pittman lives. He has long been trying to hear her story, and, beginning in the summer of 1962, she finally tells it to him. When her memory lapses, her acquaintances help fill in the spaces. The recorded tale, with editing, then becomes The Autobiography of Miss Jane.

Jane Pittman is born into slavery on a plantation somewhere in Louisiana. Jane is called "Ticey" during her days as a slave and has no parents; her mother died as a result of a beating when Jane was a child, and Jane did not know her father. Until she is around nine, Jane works in the Big House caring for the white children. One day toward the end of the war, some fleeing confederate soldiers arrive, followed soon after by some union soldiers. While being served water by Jane, one Union soldier named Corporal Brown tells Jane that she will soon be free and can then visit him in Ohio. He tells her to change her name and offers her that of his daughter, Jane Brown. After the soldiers leave, Jane refuses to answer when her mistress calls her "Ticey." The mistress later beats Jane until she bleeds, but Jane insists that her name is now Jane Brown. Because of her obstinacy, Jane is sent to work in the fields.

On the day of the Emancipation Proclamation, Jane's master frees them all. On the same day, Jane leaves the plantation with a group of ex-slaves. They have no idea where they are going, but a woman named Big Laura leads the way. Jane wants to go to Ohio to find Corporal Brown. The first morning away, a group of "Patrollers," local white trash who used to hunt slaves, comes upon them and kills everyone but Jane and a very young boy Ned, whom they did not find. Jane and Ned then continue on their own, still headed for Ohio. They meet many characters on their trip, all of whom tell Jane that Ohio is too far and that she should go back to her plantation. Jane's obstinacy persists for a few weeks until she and Ned are completely exhausted from walking. Finally they catch a ride with a poor white man named Job who lets them sleep at his house and takes them the next day to a plantation run by Mr. Bone. Mr. Bone offers Jane a job, but only pays her the reduced rate of six dollars a month (minus fifty cents for Ned's schooling) because she is so young. Jane and Ned get a cabin and after one month on the job, Mr. Bone raises her pay to ten dollars because she is doing as much work as the other women.

Life on Mr. Bone's plantation initially is good with a colored schoolteacher and a political scene still monitored by Republicans from the north. Then the original owner of the plantation, Colonel Dye, buys it back (with money borrowed from Yankees). Life reverts back to almost how it was before slavery, with segregation and violence against blacks who step out of line. The blacks start fleeing north because of the worsening conditions. Initially the whites do not care, but soon they try to stop the flight. Ned, who is now almost seventeen, joins a committee that helps blacks leave. Colonel Dye warns Jane that Ned must stop, but when he will not, Ku Klux Klan members arrive at Jane's house. Ned is not home when they come and is able to flee the plantation later that night. Jane does not want to leave her secure life, so they separate with sadness. Ned goes to Kansas, gets an education, and eventually joins the U.S. Army to fight in Cuba. Jane soon marries Joe Pittman (without an official ceremony). Despite Colonel Dye's attempts to keep them, Joe and Jane soon move to a ranch near the Texas-Louisiana border where Joe has found a job breaking horses.

Joe and Jane live at the new ranch for many years, but as they age Jane becomes increasingly worried about Joe getting hurt in his work. One of her recurring dreams depicts him being thrown from a horse. Soon after, Jane sees a black stallion in a corral that is the horse from her dream. She tries to get Joe not to ride it, even consulting a Creole voodoo woman, but



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