Joel Chandler Harris was born on December 9 in either 1945 or 1948 in Eatonton, Georgia. At age 14, he took his first job as a printer’s devil for The Countryman, a local weekly newspaper that was published on Turnwold Plantation. While working there, Harris listened to the stories of the black slaves Uncle George Terrell, Old Harbert, and Aunt Crissy. He went on to work at several newspapers in New Orleans and Savannah, and finally The Atlanta Constitution.
Here he began writing his famous “Uncle Remus” tales in the voice of those master storytellers from the plantation. He wrote the tales of Tar Baby, Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear in the vernacular of the original storytellers. His words read so authentically that many people were surprised to learn that he was a white man.
Once, while he was on tour with his contemporary, Mark Twain, he was asked to read his work aloud, but he was too shy and afraid of stuttering to perform.
Mr. Harris challenged the belief system of the times with his tales of the oppressed outwitting the masterful. His gift for language and storytelling reshaped the American fable.
He died on July 3, 1908, in Atlanta, Georgia.