Song of the South, a Treasured Part of Disney's Past and a Tribute to Black History
Zip-a-dee doo-dah Featuring James Baskett
Disney has been attacked for their Splash Mountain back story from the 1946 Movie “Song of the South. The movie featured James Baskett, who portrayed Uncle Remus and carried the predominant role in the film as a leading actor and main character. Song of the South” takes place in the southern United States during the Reconstruction era, a period of American history after the end of the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery. Roots (a miniseries that aired in 1977 written by Alexander Hailey) exposed the atrocities committed against the Black slaves and sadly the abuse was not fictional. But “Song of the South” depicted the lifestyle of free slaves working as share-croppers on the plantation, and a freed people that had the right to come and go as they pleased. Although the vernacular used by the emancipated blacks, depicted the black English-slang of that period, it still represented an important era of Black history.
Based on the book by Joel Chandler Harris ‘Uncle Remus” offered tales of stories taking place after the civil war and the abolition of slavery, Harris (born in 1848) was a racial reconciliation activist writer and journalist of the Reconstruction Era.
Baskett, received an Honorary academy award for his performance of Zip-a-dee do-da and his wonderful acting performance as Uncle Remus as well as the voice of Br-er Fox. The film also featured Hattie Mc Daniel, who played Aunt Tempy the cook for the plantation. She is best known as Mammy, in “Gone with the Wind” and received an Oscar for best supporting actress, the first Oscar awarded to a black actor. The film also featured voice actors Jonny Lee as Br-er Rabbit, and Nick Stewart as Ba’er Bear as well as Actresses Lunna Patten, Ruth Warwick, Glen Leedy, Erick Rolf, Luke Rolf, as well as supporting cast.
The stories of “Uncle Remus” told to “Jonnie” the grandson of the plantation owner (played by Lucile Watson), were told to teach moral lessons, so the child could decide on his own how he should handle trials he faced. The move offered live action and animation and a new type of filmography combining the live with animation. Although there is much controversy over the movie and Disney pulled it from publication and Distribution in the United states, the movie in itself was a masterpiece of social interaction and interpersonal relationships between people co-existing in post-civil-war era America.
The songs and characters will live forever in our hearts as a part of American history. We must preserve this movie and what it offers to us all. If we remove the past from our history, we cannot learn from our mistakes. Asking Disney to remove all references to Uncle Remus and “Song of the South” impugns the hard work and efforts of the actors and writers. as well as the moral lessons brought forth in the movie, and risk them to be forgotten, and a part of American history lost forever.