Dixie Dew

The Author:
Joel Chandler Harris

Joel Chandler Harris at work at the Atlanta Constitution.
Taken from Joel Chandler Harris: A Biography (1968) by Paul Cousins.


Born in Eatonton, Georgia, Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1902) for many years was a journalist for the Atlanta Constitution; however he is best known for his Uncles Remus tales. While living and working on a plantation outside of Eatonton, he was befriended by an old Negro gentleman who would spin tales of spirited animals with human qualities. These tales are believed to have African roots and were not usually shared outside of the slave community.

It was in the Constitution that Harris first published the tales. In 1880, he presented the collection of tales in book form, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings. Harris intended the work to be a serious anthology of the old slave stories. By publishing them, he sought to preserve this bit of the salves’ African culture. He was quite peeved when the publisher listed the book under humor in their catalog.

“I am advised by my publishers that this book is to be included in their catalogue of humorous publications, and this friendly warning gives me an opportunity to say that however humorous it may be in effect, its intention is perfectly serious, and even if it were otherwise, it seems to me that a volume written wholly in dialect must have its solemn, not to say melancholy, features. With respect to the Folk-Lore series, my purpose has been to preserve the legends themselves in their original simplicity, and to wed them permanently to the quaint dialect - if, indeed, it can be called a dialect - through the medium of which they have become a part of the domestic hisory of every Southern family; and I have endeavored to give the whole a genuine flavor of the old plantation.”

Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings
Introducton by Joel Chandler Harris,
Published 1880, Appleton & Company

The book was an immediate success. It was praised as an important record of the folk tales and the culture of the Southern Negro. All Americans loved the humor and antics of Uncle Remus’ critters: Brer (Brother) Fox, Brer Bear, Brer Cooter and of course the rascally, cunning Brer Rabbit.

This illustration is from the first publication of
Legends of the Old Plantation, 1880.

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