New book traces the founding of Southern literature back to three Joes: Joseph Addison,
Joseph Addison Turner, and Joel Chandler Harris
Montgomery, Ala.: A new book by Julie Hedgepeth Williams traces an extraordinary tale concerning the founding of Southern literature. Three Not-So-Ordinary Joes: A Plantation Newspaperman, a Printer’s Devil, an English Wit, and the Founding of Southern Literature focuses on the curious intersection of the lives of Joseph Addison, Joseph Addison (J.A.) Turner, and Joel Chandler Harris, and the circumstances leading to the publication of Harris's Uncle Remus stories, which achieved for him and his work national literary status.
Julie Williams's lively story credits Joseph Addison, an eighteenth-century English wit and essayist, for inspiring Joseph Addison Turner, his namesake, to destablish a weekly newspaper, which he ran during the Civil War from his working plantation in Eatonton, Georgia. The Countryman failed after the end of the war, but not without Turner's young "printer’s devil," Joel Chandler Harris, taking up his legacy. While working for Turner, Harris often joined Turner’s children at dusk in the slave cabins, listening to the fantastical animal stories told. Harris recognized the subversive theme of the stories, of the downtrodden outwitting the powerful. Later collected and published, his Uncle Remus tales found a widely popular audience, influencing such diverse writers as Mark Twain and Beatrix Potter. Significantly, the stories also knocked New England off its perch as the center of American belles-lettres, thus fulfilling J.A. Turner’s dream of establishing for Southern literature a rightful place of its own.
Culpepper Clark, Professor Emeritus, University of Georgia, enthuses, "Williams writes with Addisonian wit and wisdom. What a story, and none better to tell it than Julie Hedgepeth Williams." Henry W. Grady III adds, "Williams's book is a fascinating chronicle of a historic moment in the making of the South, told through the lens of her three Joes. Dive in and enjoy her story."
Julie Hedgepeth Williams is a journalism professor at Samford University with a speciality in media history. She is the author of A Rare Titanic Family, winner of the 2014 Ella Dickey Literacy Award, and Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama, 1910.