John Henry


John Henry, the “steel-drivin’ man,” will be celebrated during the festival in the play “Listen to that Cold Steel Ring” (c), written by Marie Cromer and directed by Nell Richardson. The play will be performed on the grounds at the Leeds Historic Depot, 8335 Thornton Avenue, Saturday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Enjoy this original play about a skillful and powerful African-American laborer who drove spikes into solid rock as his railroad company blasted through Oak Mountain tunnel near Leeds in September 1887 in a race to Birmingham. Challenged to a contest with a steam drill that could rob his fellow workers of their livelihoods, he vowed: “Before I let this steam drill beat me down, Lawd, I’ll die with this hammer in my hand.” Members of local Black choirs will perform traditional African-American spirituals during the play, adding authenticity to its educational and historical content. This year, the John Henry Celebration will also include a student art exhibit