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Joel Chandler Harris
On this date, in 1848, Joel Chandler Harris was born. He was a white-American writer who created 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 was a Southern family servant during the Antebellum South era.
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 by 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 portraying a fictional time in the South when slaves were happy, and their work was rewarding. The film also used Disney's first human actor, James Baskett. Joel Chandler Harris died in 1908.