From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Hardin, Walker

(born: 1859  -  died: 1934) 

Walker Hardin, born in PeeWee Valley, KY, was the inspiration for the character Walker in the Little Colonel book series, and the 1935 movie The Little Colonel. The following information comes from the Little Colonel website. Walker Hardin was a farm laborer who lived in Brownsboro, KY. He was twice married and was the father of seven children. The family later lived in Stumptown and in Frazier Town, an African American community that developed at the close of the Civil War. The Little Colonel book series was written by Annie Fellows Johnston, a children's fiction author. Several of the novels in the series are based on the olden days of Kentucky during slavery, with a five year old girl as one of the main characters who is known as The Little Colonel. In The Little Colonel movie, the child character is played by Shirley Temple and the character Walker, a Negro house servant, was played by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

Additional information: Walker Hardin was probably a slave prior to him and his family gaining their freedom after the Civil War; his name does not show up in the census records until after 1870. In 1880, he was employed as a servant for the Henry Clore family in Rollington, KY [source: 1880 U.S. Federal Census]. He is listed twice in the 1880 Census, once with the Clore family, and a second time as living with his father, also named Walker, and three siblings, all in Brownsboro. In 1900, Walker Hardin (the younger) and his family were living in Peewee Valley [source: 1900 U.S. Federal Census]. Walker Hardin's mother's name is not given in the census records nor is it listed on his death certificate. Walker Hardin's birth year is given as circa 1862 in the 1880 Census, and 1859 in the 1900 Census. Walker Hardin died in Louisville, KY, in 1934 and he is buried in the Peewee Valley African American Cemetery [source: Find A Grave record].

Walker Hardin could not read or write, and there is no record of him ever being an actor or a dancer. Though an inspiration for the character Walker, he had no input in the Little Colonel movie. Nor did he have any say in the book series written from 1895-1931 by Annie Julia Fellows Johnston (1863-1931).

The last book in the series was published just before Johnston's death. Annie Fellows Johnston was born in Indiana. Her stepchildren had relatives in Peewee Valley, KY, and she liked the town so much that she moved there in 1898 and would make it her permanent home [source: Annie Fellows Johnston Biography at the Little Colonel website]. She borrowed from real life people and families in Peewee Valley in creating characters in the Little Colonel book series. 

The selection of the actor to play Walker in the movie was made by the Fox Film Corporation head Winfield Sheehan (from NY) after discussing it with LaGrange, KY native and flim director D. W. Griffith. With Bill "Bojangles" Robinson as Walker and Shirley Temple as Lloyd Sherman, the two presented the first viewing of a white person and a black person dancing together on a Hollywood film. Robinson taught Shirley Temple the tap dance routine. When the movie was shown in southern states, the scenes of the two dancing and holding hands were cut from the film. Walker Hardin died the year before the movie was released in 1935.


Kentucky County & Region

Read about Oldham County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Pewee Valley, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Brownsboro, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Stumptown, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Frazier Town, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Rollington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

References

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Little colonel (series)
NKAA Source: The Little colonel (videorecording)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Hardin, Walker,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed September 20, 2017, http://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/3074.

Last modified: 2017-09-04 10:56:23