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John Henry (character)

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John Henry is one of the legends in American Legends.

Role in the Short

According to legend, he was born with a hammer in his hand. He and some other freed slaves are building the railroad until a man with a machine comes along claiming the machine can drive more railroad spikes. When the driver burns up the contract in the machine's furnace, John stops the enraged workers from toppling the machine. Instead, he makes the driver a wager: if John beats the machine in constructing the railroad by sundown, the promised land would be given to the workers. He wields two sledgehammers to do double the work. They end up tunneling through a mountain. In the end, he dies (with a hammer in his hand) but is still considered the winner because the machine fell apart in the mountain.


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