Sun, January 14, 2018
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2018-01-14 3:00 pm
The Sound Of Progress - Songs For John Henry at Philadelphia Museum of Art
John Henry is an African American folk hero. In the years after the Civil War, he is said to have worked as a "steel-driving man"—a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock in constructing a railroad tunnel. According to legend, John Henry's prowess as a steel-driver was measured in a race against a steam-powered hammer, a race that he won only to die in victory with hammer in hand as his heart gave out from stress. The story of John Henry is told in a classic folk song, which exists in many versions, and has been the subject of numerous stories, plays, books, and novels. The historical accuracy of many of the aspects of the John Henry legend are subject to debate. Several locations have been put forth for the tunnel in which John Henry died.
This piece investigates the story of a man who bests a machine, of a country struggling to accept the man as a human being, and of an enduring song that celebrates the underdog.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 26th Street