Tales of the Unexpected

What does it say that one town can be proud of having produced both Br’er Rabbit and the Color Purple? Eatonton, GA takes some pride in having been home to both authors Joel Chandler Harris and Alice Walker. The former created the Uncle Remus Tales, starring an ebonic-speaking rabbit most famous for his encounter with a "tar baby." His stories, interpretations of black folk tales he heard from storytellers were popular once with audiences black and white.

In later years, writers including Alice Walker have taken offense at what they and others view as Harris’ being credited for what amounts to inappropriate cultural acquisition. Alice Walker, known for her portrayals of long-suffering, but powerfully staunch women of color, also wrote an essay called "Uncle Remus: No Friend of Mine."

Yet, there they are together in Eatonton, featured together on roadside signs and in a display of the town’s literary legacy at the public library. While Harris receives the lion’s share of notice in town – Br’er Rabbit’s likeness is everywhere you look as are historical markers and other random references to Harris’ work – Walker’s name turns up fairly often, too. The town seems to embrace them both (although Walker is not exactly embracing Eatonton back).

Such is the weird dichotomy of living in the South, the cradle of the confederacy challenged and transformed by the movement for civil rights. An infamous non-southerner once asked, "Can’t we all just get along?" Maybe the answer to that question can be found in Eatonton.