November 01, 2004

Legend of John Henry

The legend of John Henry is about a man named John Henry. He took a bet from the captain and salesperson of whether or not he could beat the steam drill. John accepted the challenge, and as a result, John had won the race. However, he died due to exhaustion. It was man power vs. machine. At the end, man power overtook the machine, but the machine came out anyway.

Dr. Jerz brought up the point that the steam drill was coming whether or not John Henry won or lost. The bet was if John won the race, then the salesperson would give the steam drill to him and if he lost the race, then he would have to buy the machine. As a result, "They worked John Henry to death, and then replaced his men with a machine anyway. Because of this message, the legend of John Henry has been a staple of leftist politics, labor organizing and American counter-culture for well over one hundred years."

In Katie's presentation, she mentioned how some websites were not really accurate, since some people say John was either a white or black man, the area where he grew up in was either West Virginia or Alabama, and finally whether or not John was real or fake. These are the conclusions made by Katie. It's really up to the person to believe if it's a legend or not based on other's observations.

In my opinion, it doesn't matter whether John Henry was real or not. It's the actual legend that makes the reader involved in this story, for example, I'm sure everyone has heard of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Sure, people may just believe it's a legend, but others believe it is real. I think if the story is good enough and has some substance to it, then it's valid to be either one. A good legend or realistic story to me would be if it gets pasted down from generation to generation.

In Renee's presentation, liked how she defined folklore, myth, and legend. It helped me to understand which category John Henry can be placed under. Renee mentioned that this ballad was popular in the late 1800's. It so happens that the Civil War took place in 1861, so John Henry would have been very young during that time.

The question that she mentioned is whether John Henry was a legend or a real story? In my opinion, I think it's a legend just because the facts are not accuate. The main points are the same, but some of the details are not consistent, for example; his birthplace or whether he was a white or black man. If it was a real story, then it would have surely stated these huge facts. However, people have different perspectives of John Henry.

Posted by NabilaUddin at November 1, 2004 04:56 PM


I really enjoy reading your blog entry because it summarized everything for me and really helps me a lot in understanding more than what I have previously. I liked how you brought up the idea that it did not matter whether John Henry was real or a legend. I agree with you in this aspect that it is the story that really counts not necessarily whether John was real or not. However, I am going to make you go a little further. If you had to chose whether you believe that John Henry was real or not, which would it be and why? I know that you stated that it doesn't matter, but I would just like to see that if you were given the task to do so what would it be? I am anxious to hear this answer!! :)

Melissa Hagg

Posted by: Melissa Hagg at November 3, 2004 09:46 AM

Nabila, I also enjoyed your blog entry. You brought up some interesting points. Especially, the point that you made about the legend being one or not. It really does matter how the reader invovles the story and whether it is past down from generation to generation. Also, perhaps this legend was created for the period itself, to make a point.

Posted by: ShanaDeFrances at November 3, 2004 11:42 AM


Well, if I had to pick whether John Henry was real or not, I would say that he was real. The reason I think that he is real is because it is not as exaggerated as other stories. For example, "Babe and the Blue Ox", this story says that the characters are fifty feet tall. That's quite an exaggeration. For this legend, it says that John was about eight feet tall. I believe that it is possible for a man to be that tall, because during those olden days, you can come cross tall people, also I remembered in the "Guiness Book of World Records" about a very tall man who was born during the 1900's. Also, I think that anything is possible for a man or woman to achieve. If you have an aderline rush, then it can be even possible for a young women to lift a car. So, it's realistic for me to believe a man can beat a steam drill with will power and determination. Anything can happen. There are always possiblities to break and shatter records for certain events.

-Nabila :)

Posted by: NabilaUddin at November 3, 2004 04:35 PM


I am glad that you also agree that it doesn't matter whether John Henry was a legend or not. Thanks for your feedback !

-Nabila :)

Posted by: NabilaUddin at November 3, 2004 04:43 PM

man you guys fuckin suck write better stuff about John Henry. He's my

Posted by: Jenny Nicoli at February 18, 2005 06:10 PM

hi I'm vincent and i would like you say that i got turned on eading the john henry story yeah i gt turned on easily...... from me Vinny

Posted by: vincent Gregory of Kalskag alaska at February 18, 2005 06:34 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?