Joel Chandler Harris

1848 - 1908

Joel Chandler Harris, Southern writer, famous as the creator of the “Uncle Remus” tales. Born in Eatonton, Georgia, Harris worked from 1862 to 1866 on The Countryman, a paper published by a Southern plantation owner. During that time Harris became familiar with the legends and dialects of local blacks. From 1866 to 1876 Harris worked on various newspapers in Georgia and Louisiana, and in 1876 he began working at the Atlanta Constitution, where he stayed until 1900. 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 who act like humans, such as Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear. With these stories Harris became one of the first American authors to use dialect to evoke a specific time and place; at the same time the Uncle Remus tales address and comment on universal human characteristics. They also provide an important record of black oral folktales in the Southeastern United States. The collections containing these stories include Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings (1880), Nights with Uncle Remus (1883), Free Joe and Other Georgian Sketches (1887), Uncle Remus and His Friends (1892), and Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit (1906).

Harris also wrote other works depicting Southern life, including Mingo, and Other Sketches in Black and White (1884), Tales of the Home Folks in Peace and War (1898), and the novels Sister Jane (1896) and Gabriel Tolliver (1902).