BlackFacts Details

Uncle Remus

Uncle Remus is the fictional title character and narrator of a collection of African-American folktales adapted and compiled by Joel Chandler Harris, published in book form in 1881. A journalist in post-Reconstruction Atlanta, Georgia, Harris produced seven Uncle Remus books. Harris wanted to show that life in the Southern United States was hard and that they struggled a lot. The term that comes along with this is folk uncanny.[1] Harris wrote these stories to represent the struggle in the Southern United States, and more specifically in the plantations. He did so by introducing tales he had heard and framing them in the plantation context. These stories were written in a dialect that represented the voice of the narrators and their subculture. It is for this choice of framing that his collection has led to controversy.[2]

Uncle Remus is a collection of animal stories, songs, and oral folklore, collected from southern African Americans. Many of the stories are didactic, much like those of Aesops Fables and Jean de La Fontaines stories. Uncle Remus is a kindly old freedman who serves as a storytelling device, passing on the folktales to children gathered around him.

The stories are written in an eye dialect devised by Harris to represent a Deep South Gullah dialect. The genre of stories is the trickster tale. At the time of Harriss publication, his work was praised for its ability to capture plantation Negro dialect.[3]

Brer Rabbit (Brother Rabbit) is the main character of the stories, a likable character, prone to tricks and trouble-making, who is often opposed by Brer Fox and Brer Bear. In one tale, Brer Fox constructs a lump of tar and puts clothing on it. When Brer Rabbit comes along, he addresses the tar baby amiably but receives no response. Brer Rabbit becomes offended by what he perceives as Tar Babys lack of manners, punches it, and becomes stuck.[4]

The animal stories were conveyed in such a manner that they were not seen as racist by many among the audiences of the time. By the