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Johnson investigated the legend of John Henry in the late s. This man, known as Neal Miller, told me in plain words how he had come to the tunnel with his father at 17, how he carried water and drills for the steel drivers, how he saw John Henry every day, and, finally, all about the contest between John Henry and the steam drill. Miller, "John Henry wanted to drive against it. He took a lot of pride in his work and he hated to see a machine take the work of men like him. The test went on all day and part of the next day. He wouldn't rest enough, and he overdid.

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He took sick and died soon after that. Miller described the steam drill in detail. I made a sketch of it and later when I looked up pictures of the early steam drills, I found his description correct. I asked people about Mr. Miller's reputation, and they all said, "If Neal Miller said anything happened, it happened. Talcott holds a yearly festival named for Henry, and a statue and memorial plaque have been placed along West Virginia Route 3 south of Talcott as it crosses over the Big Bend tunnel. At the time, penitentiary inmates were hired out as labourers to various contractors, and this John Henry was notated as having headed the first group of prisoners to be assigned tunnel work.

Henry, like many African Americans, might have come to Virginia to work on the clean-up of the battlefields after the Civil War. According to Nelson, objectionable conditions at the Virginia prison led the warden to believe that the prisoners, many of whom had been arrested on trivial charges, would be better clothed and fed if they were released as laborers to private contractors. He subsequently changed his mind about this and became an opponent of the convict labor system. Prison records for John William Henry stopped in , suggesting that he was kept on the record books until it was clear that he was not coming back and had died.

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 silicosis from dust created by the drills and blasting. There is another tradition that John Henry's famous race took place not in Virginia or West Virginia, but rather near Dunnavant, Alabama.

Professor Johnson in the late s received letters saying that John Henry worked on the A. Railway 's Cruzee or Curzey Mountain Tunnel in , and a third letter saying it was at Oak Mountain in , but he discounted these reports after the A. Based on documentation that corresponds with the account of C. Spencer, who claimed in the s to have witnessed the contest, Garst speculates that John Henry may have been a man named Henry who was born a slave to P. Dabney, the father of the chief engineer of that railroad, in Garst and Nelson have debated the merits of their divergent research conclusions.

The tale of John Henry has been used as a symbol in many cultural movements, including labor movements [15] and the Civil Rights Movement.

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John Henry is a symbol of physical strength and endurance, of exploited labor, of the dignity of a human being against the degradations of the machine age, and of racial pride and solidarity. In October , it was announced that Dwayne Johnson will portray the character in an upcoming film exclusive to Netflix titled John Henry and the Statesmen.

The film is intended to be the first installment in a shared universe that centers around heroes of legend and folklore, from various ethnic groups and cultures. Jake Kasdan will direct the film, from a script written by Tom Wheeler. A teaser trailer was debuted with the announcement of the film stating that the release date was "coming soon". In , animator George Pal adapted the tale of John Henry into a short film titled John Henry and the Inky-Poo as part of his theatrical stop-motion Puppetoons series.

The short is considered a milestone in American cinema as one of the first films to have a positive view of African-American folklore. Directed by Mark Henn , plans for theatrical releases in and fell through after having a limited Academy Award qualifying run in Los Angeles, [23] a shorter version was released as the only new entry in direct-to-video release, Disney's American Legends It was eventually released in its original format as an interstitial on the Disney Channel , and later as part of the home video compilation Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection in Duvall served as the series' creator, presenter, narrator, and executive producer.


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The story of John Henry is traditionally told through two types of songs: ballads , commonly called "The Ballad of John Henry", and " hammer songs " a type of work song , each with wide-ranging and varying lyrics. The well-known narrative ballad of "John Henry" is usually sung in an upbeat tempo.

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Hammer songs associated with the "John Henry" ballad, however, are not. Men who violated the stint were shunned Here was a song that told you what happened to men who worked too fast: they died ugly deaths; their entrails fell on the ground. You sang the song slowly, you worked slowly, you guarded your life, or you died. There is some controversy among scholars over which came first, the ballad or the hammer songs. Some scholars have suggested that the "John Henry" ballad grew out of the hammer songs, while others believe that the two were always entirely separate.

Songs featuring the story of John Henry have been recorded by many musical artists and bands of different ethnic backgrounds. Some of these include:.

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The story also inspired the Aaron Copland 's orchestral composition "John Henry" , revised , the chamber music piece Come Down Heavy by Evan Chambers and the chamber music piece Steel Hammer by the composer Julia Wolfe. The American cowpunk band Nine Pound Hammer is named after the traditional description of the hammer John Henry wielded.

Henry is the subject of the Roark Bradford novel John Henry , illustrated by noted woodcut artist J. The novel was adapted into a stage musical in , starring Paul Robeson in the title role. Ezra Jack Keats 's John Henry: An American Legend , published in , is a notable picture book chronicling the history of John Henry and portraying him as the "personification of the medieval Everyman who struggles against insurmountable odds and wins. The textbook titled American Music: A Panorama by Daniel Kingman displays the lyrics of the ballad titled "John Henry", explores its style and relates the history of the hero.

More filters. Sort order. The cd included with the book was new to me and really good. A worthwhile history of the greatest electric guitarist ever. Sep 15, Villain E rated it really liked it Shelves: comics , non-fiction. Wait, what? There's a biocomic about Jimi Hendrix illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz? You have failed me, every Essential Comics list ever! I mean, sure, the writing is a bit tepid, but it still achieves a good depiction of an artist who just wants to explore music and is unwilling or unable to navigate the business side of the music industry.

But the art! In a perfect compliment to Hendrix's music, Sienkiewicz's artwork moves expertly from realistic to abstract, rough to polished. There are pages, Wait, what? There are pages, so many pages, where I wish the text would get out of the way of the pictures. I could have been enraptured by this for 20 years? Jan 22, Malik rated it it was amazing. This graphic novel blew me away.

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I randomly saw it at my local library, picked it up and two hours later I find myself back in the real world after taking an adventure of a lifetime through the eyes of Mr. Through the eyes it was, I'm not sure how much of the words were from Jimi's notes, lyrics, and letter's and how much was martin green himself.

Though It doesn't matter because the whole story blends in the only way, I could ever imagine seeing Mr.

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I'm not a big Hendrix f This graphic novel blew me away. I'm not a big Hendrix fan, and I'll be the first to say it, but through these collections of words, I feel I need to give the legend a chance to speak his soul, really listening to the words from the mouth of a man, I feel I know personally now. Lyrics that would have flown over my head and thrown to the garbage folder of my mind, now feel like important scripture from the voodoo chile himself Going with a dark murky haze of watercolor it reminds me of overture; in these pages, nothing means anything, everything has already happened while it is simultaneously happening, even if you see in third person a lot of the time you and Jimi are linked, and both of you know what's to come.

Honestly, I could go on-and-on about this novel.

I highly recommend it; music fans, art fans, comic fans, poetry fans, fans of a good story, fans of hippie timepieces, anyone who will listen I will recommend this to because anyone one can find something to enjoy in this exciting piece of art. Sep 16, Tania Brizuela rated it really liked it.

Quite chaotic and mysterious. This illistrated book is inspiring and powerful in the way the amazing artwork seems to peak inside Jimi's thoughts and emotions as it shares his captivating lyrics. Simple and beautiful. Apr 20, DeadWeight rated it it was ok.