Br’er Rabbit stories – American literature

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The printing press of the Cherokee Advocate in the 1800s

The printing press of the Cherokee Advocate in the 1800s

Br’er Rabbit is short for “Brother Rabbit”. He’s a rabbit who sometimes tricks people and sometimes gets tricked. Br’er Rabbit is a lot like like the African Anansi the Spider. He’s also like the rabbit in earlier Creek and Cherokee stories. Some of his stories may go back to much earlier Buddhist Jataka Tales from India, or even further.

In West Africa and Central Africa, where many of these African-Americans came from, the same kind of stories are sometimes about rabbits. Probably the Br’er Rabbit stories came from mixing of these two earlier kinds of stories in the 1800s AD. Many African people were working as slaves planting rice and picking cotton in Georgia and Louisiana, and they met Cherokee people there. So the stories mixed together.

By 1845, Cherokee people had printed the Tar Baby story in their newspaper. White children learned these stories too, and liked them, and by the 1880s white people began to write down Br’er Rabbit stories and get them printed in English and French books.

Some of the best known Br’er Rabbit stories are the stories of the Tar BabyHow Br’er Bear Lost his Tail, and Br’er Rabbit Takes a Ride.

People from Georgia telling these Br’er Rabbit stories out loud. (Scroll down.)

Bibliography and further reading about Br’er Rabbit stories:


Native American Literature
American History home

By |2017-08-14T10:06:30+00:00August 14th, 2017|History|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Br’er Rabbit stories – American literature. Study Guides, August 14, 2017. Web. January 18, 2019.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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