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Bard of the bayou

Ernest J. Gaines to be honored with stamp

The Ernest J. Gaines stamp is the latest in the Black Heritage series.

The Postal Service will release Ernest J. Gaines, the 46th stamp in the Black Heritage series, on Jan. 23.

Gaines (1933-2019) mined his childhood in rural southern Louisiana to write several acclaimed novels, including “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “A Lesson Before Dying,” which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1993.

He was born the eldest of 12 children on Riverlake Plantation in Oscar, LA, in former slave quarters that housed his sharecropping family for five generations. He was reared by his great-aunt after his parents separated.

Gaines rose to national prominence with the publication of “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” in 1971. The title character was based in part on his great-aunt, to whom he dedicated the work.

Gaines was bestowed with numerous honors in his lifetime, including a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts. He also received a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters from the French government.

The Ernest J. Gaines stamp will be available at Post Offices and