What Does John Henry Mean?


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Arun Raj answered
John Henry is a mythical hero of the working class. He was an able-bodied muscular black man, who according to the story, in the year 1870 grew to be one of the best "steel drivers" hired to extend railway tracks across the mountains to the West. In the 19th century, as the machine industry started to replace the workforce, the owner of the rail road purchased a steam-enabled hammer to do the work of his black workers. In a courageous move to safeguard the livelihood of his workers as well as himself, he challenged the inventor to a competition of man versus machine. With his hammer and steel, he won the competition against the hammer much to the delight of the blacks. However due to strain, he succumbed to a heart attack and died.

There are a lot of plays, songs, stories, and books written as a tribute for his valour. He is an inspiration to the working class. The legend of John Henry has become a fodder for leftist parties in politics who believe that the business world is only interested in productivity and profit, at the cost of the health and livelihood of a worker.

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