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- Chappell, Louis
W. "John Henry: A Folk-lore Study." Kennikat Press, 1968 (Reprint
of the 1933 edition).
- Johnson, Guy B.
"John Henry: Tracking Down a Negro Legend." University of
North Carolina, 1929.
In the 1920's, two professors gathered oral histories from native West
Virginians about John Henry. Sixty years had passed since the legendary
race, so the authors found no living primary sources and no conclusive
proof that John Henry existed. Still, they unearthed a lot of fascinating
material that makes a strong case for the truth behind the legend.
- Williams, Bret.
"John Henry: A Bio-Bibliography." Greenwood Press, 1983.
The only contemporary academic work I know of that's devoted entirely
to John Henry. Drawing on her own research as well as Chappell's, Johnson's
and others', the author constructs an image of John Henry, and looks
at his role in and lasting impact on American culture.
- Cohen, Norm. "Long
Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong." University of Illinois
An overview of the genesis and importance of the legend, with a detailed
bibliography that includes worthwhile sources not listed here.
- Green, Archie.
"Wobblies, Pile Butts, and Other Heroes: Laborlore Explorations."
University of Illinois Press, 1993.
Through the lens of a labor folklorist, an examination of John Henry
as expressed in visual art.
- Bice, David A.
"The Legend of John Henry: The Steel Drivin' Man." Engish
- Keats, Ezra Jack.
"John Henry: An American Legend." Pantheon, 1965.
A longtime favorite. Keats' writing reveals his passion for the legend.
- Lester, Julius.
"John Henry." Dial Books, 1994.
A contemporary offering by a talented team. Lester's imaginative, lively
text is rooted in oral tradition. Illustrations by Jerry Pinkney are
beautifully- rendered and powerful.
- "West Virginia:
A Guide to the Mountain State." Oxford Press, 1941.
This volume from the American Guide Series, a project of the Writers'
Program of the WPA, is a tour through West Virginia, with some original
John Henry material.
- Botkin, B.A. "A
Treasury of American Folklore." Crown Publishers, 1944.
In a well-intentioned but patronizing tone typical of the era ("John
Henry stands for something which the pick-and-shovel Negro idolizes
-- brute strength"), Botkin discusses John Henry as hero and role
model. Valuable as a concise distillation of numerous sources, it includes
one of the longest versions of the ballad I've seen: 19 verses.