JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS
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Joel Chandler Harris Born in Eatonton Georgia
on December 9, 1845 (not 1848, as traditionally believed and shown on these FDC's.) His mother, Mary Ann Harris, had left
Richmond County to live in Eatonton, the original hometown of her maternal grandmother, Tabitha Turman. She would take odd
jobs to make herself financially independent, Mary Harris took in sewing and helped neighbors with gardening.
Joel was an undersized, carrot-topped, freckled-faced
boy who had a robust sense of humor and was a practical joker. In part, his joking and pranking may have been a way
of masking a slight stammer, which was his lifelong affliction.
Harris at thirteen left home and became an
apprentice to Joseph Addison Turner, a newspaper publisher and plantation owner. It was at this plantation, Turnwold, that
Harris often heard black field hands relate folktales of their native Africa, these were to make him famous. During his free
time, Harris used the plantation's library to study authors such as Chaucer, Dickens, Milton, and Poe. In 1866, Harris
had taken a job as a typesetter with the Macon Telegraph. This job opened doors for expansion in the literary world. He became
the associate editor of Savannah Morning News by 1870. With the success of his career he also became aquainted with Esther
LaRose with whom he fell in love and married on April 20, 1873. Esther and Harris had two children by 1876 and then had seven
more in the years to come. Harris and his family left Savannah and moved to Atlanta trying to escape a yellow fever epidemic
of which 3 of their children died.
He became associate editor of the Constitution giving it national recognition
When Harris was asked to write dialect stories for the paper, he recalled the time he spent at "Turnwold" and began
composing stories about an old Black he gave the name of Uncle Remus. The first Uncle Remus sketch was published in 1876.
The Uncle Remus stories appealed to readers from all different backgrounds. It was appealing, because Harris took the common
man...and gave him cunning, humor, and either power or compassion . The Uncle Remus series became instant classics.
Between 1876 and 1881, Harris published thirty-four stories to add to his Uncle Remus series and gained the attention of famous
authors such as Mark Twain and George W. Cable. Twain admired Harris' work of Uncle Remus and initiated correspondence
with him expressing his appreciation of Uncle Remus saying it is a work if artistic creation .
Harris was known as a
master storyteller of his time. He would go outside of himself and become the heart and soul of the plantation Negro who was
at the opposite end of the social structure...In May 1908 he became ill and was diagnosed with acute nephritis and cirrhosis
of the liver. While he was on bed rest, Harris was Baptized a Catholic. Joel Chandler Harris died on Friday, June 3, 1908
at the age of fifty-nine.
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