Mudcat Café message #671408 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #45408   Message #671408
Posted By: Dicho (Frank Staplin)
18-Mar-02 - 02:20 PM
Thread Name: JOHN HENRY solved????
Subject: RE: JOHN HENRY solved????
Prisoner or hero? The two ideas are not mutually exclusive, Art. A look through ballads collected from prisons in Texas show several extolling the abilities of certain prisoners. Many of the laborers on railroads, roads, farms, docks, factories, were in prison at one time or another.
I tend to the idea that John Henry is a composite, based first on workers in VA-WV area, later extended outside of that area. One man who figures strongly in these songs is John Hardy, who apparently was a steel-driver who later was executed for killing a man in a crap game (1894). Other songs talk about a John Henry. Has fact been fictionized or has fiction become fact? Does it matter? We have a heroic figure, a symbol who continues to intrigue us over 100 years after his origin.