The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #4018   Message #21627
Posted By: Barry Finn
17-Feb-98 - 09:44 PM
Thread Name: Origins: John Henry
Subject: RE: The origins of john Henry
Art, could've been born a slave, prior to the war between the states many blacks were born free men & worked at different trades, the best of them being a sailor or waterman of some kind. In many ways life could be easier than after the war when Jim Crow settled in, & they were free but with out any/many means of earning a living. Working trains or rails after the war was one of the few trades along with building the levees that allowed them the means of survival while offering some sense of independence & self worth, although in many cases & areas it was another form of slavery & conditions were not only dangerous but deadly. The hollow victory is the tragic side of the legend/tale, but I often wonder if JH was the first black folk hero to be sung about because prior to that time, the living heros ( Boston Massacre, Dartmore Prison {sp?}, New York's most honorable Boarding House Master), would not have survived if sung about much less have their stories told/sung in the climate of the times. Peter, I feel the same way about your window into a culture, as you mention above, giving more understanding into the roots of the songs & people, otherwise do we trace songs to their origins just for the exercise? Sorry for the ramble. Barry