A Guide to the Ernest J. Gaines Center
About the Center
The Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is an international center for scholarship on Ernest Gaines and his work. The center honors the work of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Writer-in-Residence Emeritus and provides a space for scholars and students to work with the Gaines papers and manuscripts. Gaines’s generous donation of his early papers and manuscripts (through 1993) and some artifacts to Edith Garland Dupré Library provided the foundation for the center’s collection.
The mission of the Ernest J. Gaines Center is to foster research and scholarship on the life and works of Mr. Ernest J. Gaines, to archive, house, preserve, protect and utilize the Ernest J. Gaines Collection, and to make the collection available to scholars in perpetuity. As part of its mission, the Center will collect, catalog and maintain a body of scholarship surrounding Gaines and his works; organize and conduct, as appropriate, colloquia, seminars, and conferences centered upon the Ernest J. Gaines Center.
Keep up with the latest events happening at the Ernest J. Gaines Center by following our social media outlets: Ernest J Gaines Center on Facebook, @Gaines_Center on Twitter, and gainescenter on Instagram.
Ernest J. Gaines - Brief Biography
Ernest J. Gaines (1933-2019) is a world-renowned novelist, short story writer, and teacher. Ernest J. Gaines is among the most widely read and highly respected contemporary authors of African American fiction. He was born in Pointe Coupée Parish in Louisiana and at age fifteen, Gaines moved to California, where he joined his mother and stepfather, because his Louisiana parish had no high school for African Americans.
After graduating high school and serving in the Army, Gaines enrolled in San Francisco State University where he began publishing in the university's quarterly literary journal. These stories secured him a place in Stanford University's graduate program for creative writing. After leaving Stanford, he settled in the San Francisco area.
In 1981, he accepted the position of Writer-in-Residence (Visiting) here at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (the University of Southern Louisiana at the time). Not long into his tenure, he published A Gathering of Old Men (1983), which was also adapted for television. In 1993, he published A Lesson Before Dying, which was also adapted for television in 1999 and is one of the most critically acclaimed films based on his texts.
Over the span of his career, Mr. Gaines has won numerous awards for his contributions, including the Louisiana Humanist of the Year (1989) and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1993. In 1996, Gaines was inducted into the L'ordre des Artes et des Lettres [the French Order of Arts and Letters], and in 2000, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal. In 2013, Gaines was awarded the National Medal of the Arts.
The Ernest J. Gaines Center at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is an international center for scholarship on Ernest Gaines and his work. The center honors the work of UL Lafayette's Writer-in-Residence Emeritus and provides a space for scholars and students to work with the Gaines papers and manuscripts. Gaines's generous donation of his early papers and manuscripts (through 1993) and some artifacts to Edith Garland Dupré Library provided the foundation for the center's collection. The center also anticipates acquiring the remainder of Gaines's papers.
UL Lafayette established the Ernest J. Gaines Center in 2008, and a Board was appointed shortly thereafter. Construction of the center, located on the 3rd Floor of Edith Garland Dupré Library, began in August 2009. The center was completed in fall 2010 and held its grand opening on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010.
Ernest J. Gaines-- Influences & History Documented
"He was among us, but he was a little different."-- Ada Mae Gaines.
Dr. Ernest J. Gaines, the acclaimed author of eight novels and two collections of prose, as well as the recipient of the National Humanities Medal and National Medal of the Arts, achieved fame by staying connected to his roots in Southern Louisiana. Motivated by a need to see his people reflected in literature, Dr. Gaines captures the ordinary miseries and achievements of people who normally do not get a voice and has sealed them in literary history.
The documentaries below provide information about the historical, social, community, and literary influences that not only helped shaped Dr. Ernest J. Gaines as a writer, but ultimately as a person.