First issue of the first extensive printed record of the tales of Brer Rabbit and other oral traditions kept by enslaved African Americans before emancipation, this copy with an owner's Christmas gift inscription dated 1880.
"If any collection evokes the hushed-up paradoxes of African American folklore, it is Joel Chandler Harris's Uncle Remus stories." – Gates & Tatar
Georgia-born white journalist Harris sought to document the cultural history of African Americans in his Uncle Remus project, and with his success "a vibrant storytelling culture for adults began its long migration from campfires and slave cabins into the nursery" (Gates & Tatar). Harris painted the plantation life of enslaved people as idyllic, and his collection has depicted, created, and circulated racist stereotypes of African Americans.
As complicated as such a legacy is, the collection also acts as a printed record of supreme importance for African-American oral traditions. Robert Bone argues that "[t]o neglect the Brer Rabbit tales because a white man was the first to write them down is to betray the black man's folk tradition" (quoted in Gates and Tatar). In the recent publication of the ANNOTATED AFRICAN AMERICAN FOLKTALES edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar, the folklore recorded by Harris is given a full chapter and its complex history discussed. "In my house, growing up in Piedmont, West Virginia, we collected Mother Goose and Joel Chandler Harris," Gates told THE NEW YORK TIMES, "My father used to tell Brer Rabbit stories to my brother and me all the time."
African American authors continue to draw from this tradition to create art true to their own voices, from Charles Chesnutt's forays into mythic storytelling, to Ralph Ellison's ambiguous Ulysses-Brer Rabbit trickster imagery, to Toni Morrison's TAR BABY, to Jerry Pinkney's visual tours de force.
Read more: Gates Jr. & Tatar, THE ANNOTATED AFRICAN AMERICAN FOLKTALES; Gyarkye, "From Two Scholars, African-American Folk Tales for the Next Generation," New York Times, 14 December 2017; Blanck, Peter Parley to Penrod p. 56; BAL 7100; Grolier, 100 Influential American Books prior to 1900, #83.
New York: D. Appleton, 1881. 7.5'' x 5''. Original green cloth stamped in gold and black. With "presumptive" misspelled on p. 9, bottom line, and without ads for this title in rear. Illustrated by Frederick Church and James Moser. Publisher's catalogue at rear. 231, ,  pages. Housed in custom quarter green goatskin clamshell box. Gift inscription on 2nd fly leaf in purple pencil: "Henry ___ / from aunt Julia / Xmas 1880". Expert repair to spine ends, hinges, one leaf, and one plate.
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