Mudcat Café message #1356690 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #50747   Message #1356690
Posted By: GUEST,John
14-Dec-04 - 11:36 AM
Thread Name: Origin Of John Henry--part TWO
Subject: RE: Origin Of John Henry--part TWO
John (quoted): I don't think Brown did any research. He doesn't cite any.   I interpret his writing on this as misinterpretation of Buckley or David.

Nerd: This is uncharitable at best. He does indeed cite research on page 366, including the original news story from 1899, McClure's interviews with Frankie Baker in 1935, and subsequent follow-up stories from 1942.

John: I didn't mean to say that he didn't do any reading. I question that he read anything not seen by previous scholars, none of whom noticed that Britt's real given name was "Albert."

I have no inside information on this, just Brown's chapter, Buckley, David, Huston, Legman, etc., but if I were a betting man (which I'm not, so I'm safe!), I wouldn't hesitate to bet against "Albert." If I'm right, then Brown will have really messed up the historical record - many who read his essay won't know any better, will accept what he says, and in the popular press, and perhaps in even in some scholarly writings, Britt will become Albert "Allen" Britt.

I will become charitable when I see some evidence. Until then my guess is that Brown simply rewrote history. He seems willing to accept recollections and speculation uncritically. Thus, he stated, as if it were fact, that "By the evening after the shooting, a 'barroom bard' named Bill Dooley had already composed a ballad that came to be called 'Frankie Killed Allen."

Nerd: We've gone off course here. I do agree that historical details get lost in tradition.   I am at a loss to see how this establishes the relevance of a stream of conjecture connecting "Polly Ann" and "Margaret Dabney."

John: I suppose I'm beating a dead horse, but somewhere back there you said something to the effect that if John Henry's wife's name were "Margaret," then that, or something close to it, should have been recovered in the ballad record. It is this that I've been trying to refute with examples of loss of historic detail, as well as with the notion that "Maggadee" is pretty close and that it provides a sound link to "Mary Magdalene." I wish I could find a version with just "Magdalene" (the "missing link!)