Fourth grade was more than crafts and Valentines. One of my favorite memories is hearing my reading teacher Mrs. Reed read about Brer Rabbit. Brer Rabbit was one of the characters in Uncle Remus’s tales written by Joel Chandler Harris near the end of the 19th century. Many stories about Brer Rabbit were brought to America by African slaves as African folklore, according to Encyclopedia.com.
The dialogue in these stories were written in old Southern African-American dialect, and Mrs. Reed had the uncanny ability to read it as if she were Uncle Remus himself. Here’s a sample from the Tar Baby story:
“Brer Rabbit come prancin’ ‘long twel he spy de Tar-Baby, en den he fotch up on his behime legs like he wuz ‘stonished. De Tar Baby, she sot dar, she did, en Brer Fox, he lay low. “`Mawnin’!’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee – `nice wedder dis mawnin’,’ sezee. “Tar-Baby ain’t sayin’ nuthin’, en Brer Fox he lay low.”(source).
Of course, back then, in 1968-69, there was no political correctness, wokeness, or discussion of racial bias. Racial segregation in schools had only just ended. The tales of Brer Rabbit were pure entertainment and no one protested otherwise.
I don’t advocate or disparage the stories; I just loved to hear otherwise proper and prim Mrs. Reed impersonating a fictional character in the dialect it was written in. Please forgive me if this offends you because it is certainly not my intent. It’s just a fond memory of an actual event in my young life.
Copies of the Tales of Uncle Remus and the movie “Song of the South” can still be obtained on Amazon or Ebay, so if you are curious, check them out, along with the book Little Black Sambo, where the tigers chase each other so fast around a tree they turn into butter!
Ah, childhood. . .
What’s your favorite fourth grade memory?
“Zip a dee doo dah, zip a dee ay, my oh my, what a beautiful day. . .” (from Song of the South)