Joel Chandler Harris, an imaginative writer
On this date in 1848, Joel Chandler Harris was born. He was a White American writer, the creator of the “Uncle Remus” tales.
Born in Eatonton, GA, Harris worked from 1862 to 1866 on The Countryman, a paper published by a Southern plantation owner. For the next ten years, Harris worked on various newspapers in Georgia and Louisiana; in 1876 he began working at the Atlanta Constitution, where he stayed until 1900. Over time Harris became familiar with the legends and dialects of local Blacks.
In the 1880s, Harris began to publish whimsical, imaginative stories that accurately reproduced local Black folktales in authentic language. The stories centered on the character of Uncle Remus, a former slave who is the servant of a Southern family. To entertain the young son, Uncle Remus tells him stories about animals that act like humans, such as Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear. With these stories and other works depicting Southern life, Harris became one of the first American authors to use dialect to provide an important record of Black oral folktales in the Southeastern United States.
The importance of his writings was supported with the motion-picture adaptation of his “Uncle Remus” tales in the feature film "Song of the South." Released in 1946, this Academy Award-winning Walt Disney film features three animated stories told to a White child by his friend, a former slave named Uncle Remus. Stories include “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby,” “The Briar Patch,” and “The Laughing Place.”
This film received criticism for its portrayal of a fictional time in the South when slaves were happy and their work was rewarding. Joel Chandler Harris died in 1908.
The Eatonton Messenger
Eatonton, GA., December 15, 2000.
© 2000 Eatonton Literary Festival
Harris, Joel Chandler