Untold story of American legend John Henry at Fairfield University March 11


Scott Reynolds Nelson, Ph.D., Legum Professor of History at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., will present a lecture on his award-winning book, "Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry - The Untold Story of an American Legend," on Wednesday, March 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the John A. Barone Campus Center Oak Room. The event is presented by the History Department of the College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University along with the departments of American Studies, Black Studies, and Visual & Performing Arts.

The multi-media lecture is based on Professor Nelson's award-winning book, which tells the true story of the man behind the story of John Henry, an American folk hero and rail worker famous for being faster than a steam-powered hammer. The folk song and story of John Henry has long been told with many not knowing who John Henry actually was or if he even existed. Sharing unknown facts and confirming legends through the use of census data and reports of railroad companies, Nelson tells the tale of Henry, who died working on the first rail route through the Appalachian Mountains.

Professor Nelson's book, published in 2006 by Oxford University Press, has received rave reviews by "The New York Times," "Entertainment Weekly," and the "Chicago Tribune." Its awards include the Merle Curti Award of the Organization of American Historians, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize, the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Nonfiction, and the National Award for Arts Writing of The Arts Club of Washington.

The Merle Curti Prize Committee described the work as, "A beautifully written, unique essay in social and cultural history that tells a multilayered story about labor, race, and railroads in the era of Reconstruction.... Elegant, accessible, and engaging [it] reveals the archaeological process of historical research and history writing, compelling readers to understand how all of us come to understand the past."

Admission to the lecture is free and the public is welcome. For more information, contact Dr. Cecelia Bucki, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2307.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 27, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 229