Julia Collier Harris was born in Atlanta, Georgia on November 11, 1879, the first born of a prominent Atlanta Family, Her father, Charles Augustus Collier, was an attorney, banker and
one-term popular mayor of that city. Julia attended Washington Seminary in Atlanta, a Boston finishing school, ant spent two years at Boston’s Cowles Art School. When she was twenty-one, she married Julian LaRose Harris, son of famed author, Joel Chandler Harris. Julia’s husband was a successful Atlanta newspaperman at the time, and Julia, always a gifted writer, was soon submitting her articles, particularly on art and books, to famed northern newspapers and getting them accepted. She wrote for the New York and Paris editions of the New York Harold, the New York Morning Telegraph, the American Magazine of Art, The Nation, and the Journal of Social Forces, to name only a few. She was also one of two women present at the Paris Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I, and wrote back to U.S. newspapers describing the event.
Her writing credits include three books: The Foundling Prince and Other Tales(1917), translated and edited from the Rumanian, The Life and Letters of Joel Chandler Harris (1918),and Joel Chandler Harris: Editor and Essayist (1931). In addition, she wrote articles on Louis Pasteur, Denis Diderot, Charles Dickens, Pierre Auguste Renoir, contemporary women in our society, Roman education, Greek education and countless others. She also corresponded with an astounding group of American notables: Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis. George Washington Carver, and H.L Menken. The thirty-year correspondence with Menken is probably the most unusual: “She was one of the conduits through which Menken exerted a liberalizing influence on southern journalism in the twenties.”
In 1922 the Harrises purchased the Columbus, GA Enquirer Sun. Julia put up the money. With this newspaper they began a crusade for civil rights for African Americans. For the first time in Georgia they published good deeds done by blacks; black society/club and church news; they hired the first African American reporter for a white newspaper in GA. And they fought the Ku Klux Klan, which sent them death threats, put sand in their printing machinery, and tried to blow up both the newspaper building and their home. Undaunted, both continued their crusade, attracting nation-wide attention. In 1925 the little Enquirer Sun won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, the first such award ever given in the South.
However, their triumph was cut short. Northern newspapers in a misguided attempt to praise the Harrises treated them as Yankees, praising their crusade while deriding all the other inhabitants of Columbus as know-nothings. As a result, people stopped subscribing to the newspaper. Businesses withdrew their advertising. The Harrises were forced to sell their newspaper. The new owner immediately fired “that woman, Julia,” who had provided the money for the enterprise in the first place. Julia and Julian went into serious debt. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, they spent the next 20 years repaying their creditors. Julian died in 1963 at the age of 88 and Julia died in 1967 at the age of 92. Their marriage lasted more than sixty years. One unpublished biography has proclaimed their life together to be “Fruitful and Disastrous Years.” Perhaps their Award will help modern Georgians to remember.
Sue Gilman, Executive Director of the Wren's Nest, accepted this award on behalf of the Harris/Collier families.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 15:30