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1

WE PLEDGED ALLEGIANCE to the flag. The flag hung limp from a ten-foot bamboo pole in the corner of the white picket fence that surrounded the church.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

2

My classroom was the church.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

3

You have to go away to know about life. There’s no life here. There’s nothing but ignorance here.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

4

Or maybe it was just me. I could never stay angry long over anything. But I could never believe in anything, either, for very long.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

5

People want to keep a local boy for themselves, because they have so little.”

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

6

“We black men have failed to protect our women since the time of slavery. We stay here in the South and are broken, or we run away and leave them alone to look after the children and themselves. So each time a male child is born, they hope he will be the one to change this vicious circle—which he never does. Because even though he wants to change it, and maybe even tries to change it, it is too heavy a burden because of all the others who have run away and left their burdens behind. So he, too, must run away if he is to hold on to his sanity and have a life of his own.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

7

It was the kind of “here” that let you know this was hard-earned money but, also, that you needed it more than she did, and the kind of “here” that said she wished you had it and didn’t have to borrow it from her, but since you did not have it, and she did, then “here” it was, with a kind of love. It was the kind of “here” that asked the question, When will all this end?

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

8

I want you to show them the difference between what they think you are and what you can be.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

9

“A myth is an old lie that people believe in. White people believe that they’re better than anyone else on earth—and that’s a myth. The last thing they ever want is to see a black man stand, and think, and show that common humanity that is in us all. It would destroy their myth. They would no longer have justification for having made us slaves and keeping us in the condition we are in. As long as none of us stand, they’re safe.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

10

That’s the way it is with booze, it gives and takes. It keeps you from doing what you’re supposed to do well in bed, and other times it makes you listen to things you should not listen to.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

11

and his plain frustration with life would not let him go down.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

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