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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.

Several locations have been put forth for the tunnel on which John Henry died. Johnson, a Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, investigated the legend of John Henry in the late 1920s.

Disney has utilized the legend in several shorts, including in 1995, John Henry appeared in the Disney film Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill portrayed by Roger Aaron Brown.

He also appeared in a Walt Disney Feature Animation produced animated short version of John Henry in 1999, directed by Mark Henn.

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Many notable musicians have recorded John Henry ballads, including The story also inspired the Aaron Copland's orchestral composition "John Henry" (1940, revised 1952), the 1994 chamber music piece Come Down Heavy by Evan Chambers and the 2009 chamber music piece Steel Hammer by the composer Julia Wolfe.

"Well, they decided to hold a test to get an idea of how practical the steam drill was. (He subsequently changed his mind about this and became an opponent of the convict labor system.) Nelson asserts that a steam drill race at the Big Bend Tunnel would have been impossible because railroad records do not indicate a steam drill being used there.The well-known narrative ballad of "John Henry" is usually sung in an upbeat tempo.Hammer songs associated with the "John Henry" ballad, however, are not.He concluded that John Henry was a real person who worked on and died at the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway's (C&O Railway) Big Bend Tunnel.The tunnel was built near Talcott, West Virginia, from 1870 to 1872 (according to Johnson's dating), and named for the big bend in the Greenbrier River nearby.

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Henry is the subject of the 1931 Roark Bradford novel John Henry, illustrated by noted woodcut artist J. Ezra Jack Keats's John Henry: An American Legend, published in 1965, is a notable picture book chronicling the history of John Henry and portraying him as the "personification of the medieval Everyman who struggles against insurmountable odds and wins." Colson Whitehead's 2001 novel John Henry Days uses the John Henry myth as story background.

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