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Reading: Primary Sources

Ernest J. Gaines

"A recipient of an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship early in his career, Ernest Gaines is best known for his 1971 novel, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, and his 1993 novel, A Lesson Before Dying, which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. He also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship."  National Endowment for the Arts

Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at LafayetteThe mission of the Ernest J. Gaines Center is to foster research and scholarship on the life and works of Dr. Ernest J. Gaines, to archive, house, preserve, protect and utilize the “Collection of Ernest J. Gaines,” and to make the collection available to scholars in perpetuity. 

African-American Life Pre-Civil Rights

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture: Photographs and Prints: Explore a collection of over 300,000 documentary and fine art photographs ranging from mid-eighteenth century to the documenting the history and culture of people of African descent worldwide as well as the work of photographers of African descent. 

The Struggle for Racial Equality in the United States

Civil Rights Digital Library: Explore an extensive collection of primary source material illustrating America's struggle for racial equality. 

Jim Crow and Segregation: A primary source set from the Library of Congress exploring the system of laws and practices which denied full freedom and citizenship to African Americans, segregating nearly all aspects of public life for more than a century after the Civil War.

Lynching in America: Equal Justice Initiative's research and report on lynching in America during the period between the Civil War and World War II.  

Plantation to Ghetto Archives:  Amistad Digital Resource from Columbia University which "seeks to enrich the history of African American protest and organization building within the first half of the twentieth century" and "emphasizes the impact of an oppressive Jim Crow segregation on every aspect of people’s lives."

Willie Francis

A Lesson Before Dying, which tells the story of a young black man facing execution in 1940s Louisiana, was partly based on the case of Willie Francis, an African American teenager convicted of murder in Louisiana in 1945.  Sentenced to death by electrocution at the age of 17, he survived the first attempt to execute him when the chair failed.  He was executed at age 18 in 1947.  

Visit  the website The Execution of Willie Francis to view photographs of Francis and of St. Martinsville, Louisiana where Francis was convicted and executed.  

Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment: Bureau of Justice Statistics:  Provides data on persons held under sentence of death and persons executed during the calendar year from the state department of corrections and the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons.