The public is invited to attend the second John Henry in Leeds Symposium, which will provide updated evidence of John Henry in Leeds. The two-day educational and cultural event will be at the Leeds Historic Depot from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, and from 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.
The event focuses on John Henry, steel drivin’ man and local legend. The purpose of the symposium is to discuss and celebrate the long-lasting significance of John Henry in the Leeds area.
Both oral history and academic research place John Henry in the Leeds area, where it is believed he lived, worked and died during the 1880s as railroad tunnels were built through the Coosa and Oak mountains south of Leeds.
Dr. John Garst of Atlanta spoke at the first symposium in 2007, where he presented research that initially provided evidence of John Henry in Leeds. At the 2012 symposium, he will present additional, newly discovered evidence for the steel drivin’ man in the Leeds area.
Other educational aspects of the symposium will include a local perspective about railroads in Leeds provided by Dr. Carl Marbury of Leeds and a presentation about railroads in Leeds into Birmingham from John Stewart of Birmingham. An educational video program titled “High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music” will also be presented by Kirby Parker of Leeds.
Cultural aspects of the symposium include a concert of 19th century American railroad folk music by the Log Cabin Band and a theatrical performance of “It’s Gonna Be the Death of Me,” a dramatization written and performed by Birmingham actress Donna Thornton, which tells of John Henry’s life and death through song and stories. Thornton premiered the one-woman show at the 2007 event.
Refreshments will be provided by the Moton Center Educational Foundation. Future symposiums about John Henry in Leeds are planned every five years in conjunction with the festival.
A complete schedule of the weekend’s events is available in today’s edition of the St. Clair Times.