47/51 Joel Chandler Harris.

Joel Chandler Harris gained international prominence for his volumes of Uncle Remus folktales.

In 1862, Harris was hired at age sixteen to lay typeface on the printing press of Joseph Turner, the owner of 1,000-acre Turnwold Plantation in Eatonton. Harris remembered listening to traditional African stories at Turnwold as told by enslaved workers, called Uncle George Terrell, Old Harbert, and Aunt Crissy. These persons became models for Harris’ characters Uncle Remus, Aunt Tempy, and other figures in the tales Harris began adapting and writing a decade later.

In September 1876, the Atlanta Constitution hired Harris whose stories they had already been reprinting; he later served as associate editor of the newspaper. In 1880, Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings: The Folklore of the Old Plantation was published. Within four months it sold 10,000 copies and was quickly reprinted. Harris eventually adapted 185 African folklore tales.

Today, folklorists praise his work in popularizing and preserving black storytelling traditions. Harris’ work, however, remains controversial due to his use of Negro dialect, racist stereotypes, and the stories’ setting on an Old South plantation.

Nights with Uncle Remus, Myths and Legends of the Old Plantation, Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1900.

Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center, Gift of John Sims

Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center

Next: 48 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Born and raised in segregated Atlanta, Martin Luther King, Jr. grew to be the leader of the modern Civil Rights Movement and was recognized worldwide for his campaign of nonviolent social change. In 1955, while a pastor in Montgomery, he began his struggle to end segregation.