Joel Chandler Harris was a New South journalist, a folklorist, and one of Georgia’s most famous authors.
He was born in Eatonton in 1845. Like Ben Franklin, Harris learned to write by hand-setting newspaper type, working at Turnwold Plantation for Joseph Addison Turner. After working in Macon and Savannah, Harris went to work for Henry Grady at the Atlanta Constitution, and it would be his home for the next 25 years. During that time he would also write a series of stories that are still an important part of the American folklore tradition – the tales of Uncle Remus.
At Turnwold, Harris spent time with the plantation slaves listening to African-American “trickster” tales, traditional among oppressed peoples, about how a weaker but cunning trickster overcomes a stronger but dimwitted adversary. Harris adapted these “dialect” stories and published them in 1880. Their popularity brought him international fame.
Harris influenced other writers like Rudyard Kipling and Beatrix Potter, and his legacy can be found in nearly every animal cartoon character of the 20th century. One of America’s most renowned folklorists was born on December 9, 1845, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.