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Eatonton, Georgia: A Hidden Gem Discovered By Accident

Home of Alice Walker and the Creator of Br'er Rabbit

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When Theresa and I stumbled upon Eatonton, Georgia, we weren't looking for it. We had just navigated our way around Atlanta, Georgia and found Social Circle, another small town we loved.

When we left Social Circle, we decided to explore some other places around that area of Georgia, just east of Atlanta. That's when we stumbled upon Eatonton, a small town nestled in Putnam County that also happens to be the county seat. We were delighted at what we found there.

Besides being a quaint little community, there is a lot of wonderful history in Eatonton. Primarily, it's literary history, and if you know me, I'm a huge literary buff. But it's just not any ordinary literature. We're talking about iconic literary figures who have made their homes in Eatonton, Georgia.

Let's start with Joel Chandler Harris.

Who Are Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus, and Br'er Rabbit?

Joel Chandler Harris, from Wikipedia (public domain image)

Harris was born in Eatonton in 1848 and died in Atlanta in 1908. For much of his life, he was a journalist and newspaper editor. He managed to climb the ladder to associate editor of The Atlanta Constitution and was very progressing during the Reconstruction era. A proponent of the New South philosophy, he believed the south, after the Civil War, should work to become more industrialized and integrated with the United States economically.

Between 1862 and 1866, Harris worked as a printer's devil at Turnwold Plantation, near Eatonton. Joseph Addison Turner, owner of the plantation, owned a newspaper called The Countryman. Harris, a teenager at the time, performed menial tasks for room and board, but the job gave him an opportunity to hear the folk stories told by plantation slaves.

Uncle Remus, from Wikipedia (public domain image)

After the Civil War, Turner shut down his newspaper. Harris moved to Macon, Georgia to take a newspaper job. By 1876, he took a job at The Atlanta Constitution, where he spent the rest of his career. While at the Constitution, Harris began writing a series of stories with a character called Uncle Remus, who was based on some of the slaves he met while working on the plantation. The stories achieved popularity all across the United States. What made the stories fascinating were two creative details, which were the products of Harris's literary acumen:

  1. The characters spoke in a southern dialect similar to that spoken by the slaves Harris met on the plantation during his teenage years;

  2. And they involved a trickster character called Br'er Rabbit who used his wits to succeed in the face of adversity.

Eatonton has done a good job of commemorating the work of Harris and keeping the memories of Uncle Remus and Br'er Rabbit, two of the most beloved characters of late 19th and early 20th century literature.

You can learn more about Harris and his characters at Wikipedia.

Other Eatonton Natives: Hunt, Weaver, and Walker

Other literary personalities born in Eatonton include poet Louise Prudden Hunt, better known as Mrs. B.W. Hunt, libertarian writer Henry Grady Weaver, who penned "The Mainspring of Human Progress", and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Walker.

I couldn't find much information on Hunt, but her tombstone inscription is available online.

Weaver, besides authoring one of the most recognized libertarian books of the early 20th century, was employed by General Motors. In 1938, Time Magazine featured him on their cover to recognize him for his work at the car company. He would not write "The Mainstpring of Human Progress" for another nine years.

Walker's fame far surpasses that of even Harris's, who was well-known throughout the United States. Walker, however, has achieved international acclaim for having written one of the most praised novels of the 20th century, "The Color Purple". You likely remember, even if you haven't read the book, Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg starring in the movie version.

All three of these literary icons were born in Eatonton. The youngest of the three, Walker, was born in 1944.

While our video doesn't discuss the literary works of these creators much, except as it relates to our tour of Eatonton, we think you'll love this little excursion into a corner of the world we didn't know existed until we got there. View it on YouTube here.

Check out more videos on the Adventures of Allen and Theresa YouTube channel

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