Joel Chandler Harris
Joel Chandler Harris at work at the Atlanta
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
Legends of the Old Plantation, 1880.