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Joel Chandler Harris

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Joel Chandler Harris (December 8,1848 - July 3, 1908) was an American journalist from Georgia, best known for his collection of Uncle Remus stories: Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings (1881), Nights with Uncle Remus (1883), Uncle Remus and His Friends (1892), and Uncle Remus and the Little Boy (1905).

Image:joel_harris.JPG

The stories, based on the African-American oral storytelling tradition, were revolutionary in their use of the Gullah dialect and in featuring a trickster hero called Brer ("Brother") Rabbit, who uses his wits against adversity, though his efforts do not always succeed. The rabbit in Africa was called Zomo. The stories, which began appearing in the Atlanta Constitution in 1879, were popular among both Black and White readers in the North and South, not least because they presented an idealized view of race relations soon after the Civil War.

The first Brer Rabbit stories were written by President Theodore Roosevelt's Uncle, Robert Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography, about her aunt from Georgia that, "She knew all the 'Br'er Rabbit' stories, and I was brought up on them. One of my uncles, Robert Roosevelt, was much struck with them, and took them down from her dictation, publishing them in Harper's, where they fell flat. This was a good many years before a genius arose who in 'Uncle Remus' made the stories immortal." That genius President Roosevelt spoke of was Joel Harris Chandler.

Paul Reuben wrote, “Joel Chandler Harris was a white man, born of poor parents, who at thirteen left home and became an apprentice to Joseph Addison Turner, a newspaper publisher and plantation owner. It is at this plantation, Turnwold, that Harris first heard the black folktales that were to make him famous.” In Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson describes Harris as a “painfully shy newsman” who had a pronounced stammer and was very self-conscious about his illegitimate birth.

Apart from Uncle Remus, Chandler wrote several other collections of stories depicting rural life in Georgia.

The 1946 Disney film Song of the South is based on Harris's work.

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