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JOHN HENRY IN LEEDS : CELEBRATING A LOCAL LEGEND, September 15, 2007

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  • Amos J Wright
    From:   AlabamaFolklife@yahoogroups.com [mailto:AlabamaFolklife@yahoogroups.com]  On Behalf Of Joyce Cauthen Sent:   Friday, August 31, 2007 11:55 AM
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2007
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      From:   AlabamaFolklife@yahoogroups.com
      [mailto:AlabamaFolklife@yahoogroups.com]  On Behalf Of Joyce Cauthen
      Sent:   Friday, August 31, 2007 11:55 AM
      To:     AlabamaFolklife@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [AlabamaFolklife] JOHN HENRY IN LEEDS : CELEBRATING A LOCAL
      LEGEND, September 15, 2007

      JOHN HENRY IN LEEDS : CELEBRATING A LOCAL LEGEND
      September 15, 2007
      Community Arts Center
      8140 Parkway Drive. Leeds , Alabama 

      Co-sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state program of
      the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information about
      the event, visit http://www.alabamafolklife.org   or call Joyce Cauthen
      at 205-822-0505.

      The legend of John Henry, as told in the well-known and often recorded
      folk song, has inspired Americans for generations.  It is the story of a
      skillful and powerful African-American laborer who drove spikes into
      rocks to make holes for the placement of dynamite as his railroad
      company blasted through mountains in its race westward.  When challenged
      to a contest with a machine that could rob his fellow workers of their
      livelihoods, he vowed that "A man ain't nothing but a man.  Before I let
      this steam drill beat me down, Lawd, I'll die with this hammer in my
      hand."

      John Henry's deeds have been kept alive through songs, novels, plays,
      animated films, scholarly articles, and a postage stamp.  In the part of
      Alabama where Shelby , St. Clair and Jefferson Counties converge, John
      Henry's story has been kept alive through oral transmission. Many older
      citizens of the area were told by their grandparents that he resided in
      the railroad workers' camp in Dunavant as tunnels were built through
      Coosa and Oak Mountains .

      On September 15, 2007 the Alabama Folklife Association, the Leeds
      Historical Society and the Leeds Arts Council are sponsoring a day of
      programs which will discuss and celebrate the long-lasting significance
      of the man and the legend. 
          
      The Program
      Free Admission

      8:30: Continental Breakfast provided by Leeds Historical Society

      9:00 a.m.-9:45: Laying the Ground Work: Guitarist/singer Ron Dometrovich
      will open the program with the ballad of John Henry.  Leeds-area
      residents--Marie Cromer, Carl Marbury and Jerry Voyles-will discuss area
      railroad history and the John Henry connection. 

      10-10:45: Myth, Oral Tradition, and the Historical Nature of the John
      Henry Legend: Carl Marbury, Ph. D., will approach the topic from his
      background both as a humanities scholar and as one who grew up in the
      Leeds area hearing of John Henry.

      11-12:15: Evidence for John Henry in Alabama:   John Garst, Ph. D. will
      tell how his research on the history behind the song "John Henry" led
      him to conclude that the legendary steel driver was a historic person
      who died after a contest with a steam drill that took place in the
      tunnel being built through Oak Mountain in 1887.

       Lunch in town: A list of recommended eating places will be provided.

       1:30-2:30: John Henry and American Culture: Scott R. Nelson, Ph. D.
      will discuss why the legend of John Henry endures. This talk is made
      possible by New College of the University of Alabama.  

      2:40-3:40: The Story Continues:  Did you hear the John Henry story from
      your parents, grand parents, school teacher, scoutmaster, etc.? In this
      open forum, led by Susan Thomas and Joyce Cauthen, you are invited to
      tell your connection to the John Henry legend and to further discuss
      points that have been made by speakers during the day.

      4:00-5:30  Tours to tunnel (reservations required; visit
      http://www.alabamafolklife.org/John%20Henry%20in%20Leeds.htm for
      details)  Two historic homes in Leeds, the  Bass House and Rowan House ,
      will also be open for tours.
       
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