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Steel Drivin' Man: John Henry: The Untold Story of an American Legend

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Steel Drivin' Man: John Henry: The Untold Story of an American Legend Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The ballad "John Henry" is the most recorded folk song in American history and John Henry--the mighty railroad man who could blast through rock faster than a steam drill--is a towering figure in our culture. But for over a century, no one knew who the original John Henry was--or even if there was a real John Henry.

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. Using census data, penitentiary reports, and railroad company reports, Nelson reveals how John Henry, victimized by Virginia's notorious Black Codes, was shipped to the infamous Richmond Penitentiary to become prisoner number 497, and was forced to labor on the mile-long Lewis Tunnel for the C&O railroad. Nelson even confirms the legendary contest between John Henry and the steam drill (there was indeed a steam drill used to dig the Lewis Tunnel and the convicts in fact drilled faster).

Equally important, Nelson masterfully captures the life of the ballad of John Henry, tracing the song's evolution from the first printed score by blues legend W. C. Handy, to Carl Sandburg's use of the ballad to become the first "folk singer," to the upbeat version by Tennessee Ernie Ford. We see how the American Communist Party appropriated the image of John Henry as the idealized American worker, and even how John Henry became the precursor of such comic book super heroes as Superman or Captain America.

Attractively illustrated with numerous images, Steel Drivin' Man offers a marvelous portrait of a beloved folk song--and a true American legend.

Synopsis:

Scott Reynolds Nelson is Associate Professor of History at the College of William and Mary. The

Synopsis:

The story of John Henry, the mighty railroad man who has become a towering figure in American culture, is told in this portrait of the most recorded folk song in American history.

Table of Contents

The search for John Henry — To the White House — Wiseman's grocery — Ward-well — Man versus mountain — The Southern Railway Octopus — Songs people have sung: 1900-1930 — Communist strongman.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780199741144
Subtitle:
John Henry, the Untold Story of an American Legend
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Creator:
Scott Reynolds Nelson
Author:
Nelson, Scott Reynolds
Author:
Scott Reynolds Nelson
Subject:
Folklore & Mythology - Folklore
Subject:
Historical - U.S.
Subject:
History, Local
Subject:
History
Subject:
History, American | African American
Subject:
People of Color
Subject:
cultural heritage
Subject:
African American Studies-General
Subject:
History, American | Civil War
Subject:
Reconstruction
Subject:
African American Studies-Folklore
Subject:
Biography-Historical
Subject:
main_subject
Subject:
all_subjects
Publication Date:
20060928
Binding:
ELECTRONIC
Language:
English
Illustrations:
with numerous images, Steel Drivin' Man
Pages:
214

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » General
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Blues
Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Folk » Folk and Ethnic
Biography » General
Biography » Historical
Engineering » Civil Engineering » Transport
History and Social Science » African American Studies » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Humanities » Mythology » Folklore and Storytelling

Steel Drivin' Man: John Henry: The Untold Story of an American Legend
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Product details 214 pages Oxford University Press, USA - English 9780199741144 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Scott Reynolds Nelson is Associate Professor of History at the College of William and Mary. The
"Synopsis" by , The story of John Henry, the mighty railroad man who has become a towering figure in American culture, is told in this portrait of the most recorded folk song in American history.
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