Harris, Joel Chandler

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Harris, Joel Chandler

Joel Chandler Harris, 1848–1908, American short-story writer and humorist, b. Eatonton, Ga., considered one of the greatest American regionalist writers. As an apprentice to the editor of the Countryman, a newspaper published on a Southern plantation, Harris gained firsthand knowledge of black slaves and their folklore. His stories and sketches of the South were originally published in the Atlanta Constitution, with which he was associated from 1876 to 1900. Harris's first collection, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings (1881), brought him immediate fame. Featuring as their narrator a lovable, shrewd former slave, the Uncle Remus stories drew upon African-American folklore and humor and captured the authentic life, character, and dialect of Southern blacks. The demand for his stories and sketches was so great that Harris followed with nine more books in a similar vein, including The Tar Baby (1904) and Uncle Remus and Br'er Rabbit (1906). In other notable works, such as Mingo and Other Sketches in Black and White (1884) and Free Joe and Other Georgian Sketches (1887), Harris portrayed with accuracy and insight the aristocrats and poor whites of Georgia.

See his life and letters (ed. by J. C. Harris, 1918); biographies by P. M. Cousins (1968) and R. B. Bickley, Jr. (1987); study by R. B. Bickley, Jr. (1981).

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