My granny taught me his song and even took my brothers and me to see his statue. Like many recently freed African Americans, he went to work for the railroads during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. The Facts There is some evidence that John Henry was a historical man, probably an emancipated slave born in either North Carolina or Virginia in the decade of the 1840s or 1850s. In later incarnations, they became folk, blues, or protest vehicles for the likes of , Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, Harry Belafonte, and Dave Van Ronk. Nelson asserts that a steam drill race at the Big Bend Tunnel would have been impossible because railroad records do not indicate a steam drill being used there. Virtually every schoolchild knows the tale, transmitted through song, story or animated cartoon, about the doomed railroad worker who bests a mechanical drill only to die at the moment of victory.
He laid down his hammer and he died. I'm throwin' thirty pounds from my hips on down. Photo provided by Smythe Richbourg. Well the man that invented the steam drill, He thought that he was mighty fine. It is important to remember that no one knows for sure if John Henry existed. He wouldn't rest enough, and he overdid. Garst provides his perspective on ideas presented in Dr.
Many disciplines are necessarily examined in the course of this detective tale: history of course, but also geology, forestry, engineering, anthropology, anatomy, sociology, law, music, literature, poetry, art and popular culture. Whether or not John William Henry is the man seems almost irrelevant. He looks like he is ready to spring off of his stone base and drive some serious steel. In April of that year he was arrested for stealing from a grocery store and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Based upon astonishing research, Nelson tells an eloquent story about injustice, racism, and most important of all, why we study history and how those in the present become engaged with the past.
Book Reviews Sites with a book review or quick commentary on Steel Drivin' Man by Scott Reynolds Nelson. Progress was halted at one point by Big Bend Mountain in Talcott, West Virginia, a one-and-a-half mile obstruction that could not be circumvented. Instead, Nelson argues that the contest must have taken place 40 miles away at the Lewis Tunnel, between Talcott and , where records indicate that prisoners did indeed work beside steam drills night and day. Songs featuring the story of John Henry have been recorded by many musical artists and bands of different ethnic backgrounds. Intrigued but this fact, Nelson began to search state prison records, where he encountered a man who upends the John Henry myth. The machines were highly efficient, however, at generating clouds of silicon dust.
Johnson, a Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, investigated the legend of John Henry in the late 1920s. A steam drill was used there, and, notably, so was human labor. In addition, Henry worked on the team assigned to drill the Lewis Tunnel in West Virginia, where steam drills were put to the test against workers with hammers. Information about John Henry - Researchers believe that John Henry was born a slave in the 1840's or 1850's. John Henry hammered in the mountain His hammer was striking fire. Just listen to that cold steel ring.
Have a good day y'all!! My daddy was a steel-driving. Nelson and a on the College of William and Mary's News Site. In Steel Drivin' Man, Scott Reynolds Nelson recounts the true story of the man behind the iconic American hero, telling the poignant tale of a young Virginia convict who died working on one of the most dangerous enterprises of the time, the first rail route through the Appalachian Mountains. He won, but died of exhaustion, his life cut short by his own superhuman effort. Any worker facing the new world of mechanized labor understood the John Henry story. Hammer's gonna be the death of me. The character later appeared in a short film, John Henry 1999.
It depicts an eight foot tall, muscle bound John Henry, standing with his feet spread wide and a hammer in both hands. How John Henry, a small man even for the time, became the muscled superman of legend remains mysterious. Whop that steel on down. I made a sketch of it and later when I looked up pictures of the early steam drills, I found his description correct. We all called them Preacher Cookies. John Henry had a little baby. Both were hazardous, sweaty, exhausting jobs, but it was some of the only work available at that time.
You could hold him in the palm of your hand. Who's Who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film and Television's Award-Winning and Legendary Animators. Nelson believes that the actual site was the nearby Lewis Tunnel, which is situated between Talcott and Millboro, Virginia. Nelson simply takes his leave of John William Henry, without comment. Attractively illustrated with numerous images, Steel Drivin' Man offers a marvelous portrait of a beloved folk song—and a true American legend. For decades, it has been accepted as fact by every towns person and tourist who has snapped photos of the hulking statue.
Military Academy at West Point. The evidence assembled by Nelson, though suggestive, is circumstantial; Nelson stresses that John Henry would have been representative of the many hundreds of convict laborers who were killed in unknown circumstances tunneling through the mountains or who died shortly afterwards of from dust created by the drills and blasting. Mid-Late 19th Century John Henry, about whom little is known, is a subject of legend and song, and may well have been a real person living in the late 19th century in West Virginia or Alabama. We may have found someone who can help us convert RealAudio to mp3. Sittin' on his Daddy's knee. His name was John William Henry. One such chore that figures heavily into some of the earliest John Henry ballads is the blasting of the Big Bend Tunnel -- more than a mile straight through a mountain in West Virginia.