Mar 31, 2017

“Well, John and Henry were the most common names for freed slaves, so if there was a record of him, it wouldn’t mean that he was the John Henry”

Written by Jason McCall

Read by Kim Bridgford

— Title quotation taken from Colson Whitehead’s “John Henry Days”

John Henry is every black man. John Henry is every black man trying to breathe. John Henry is every black man willing to jump in front of a train to keep his job. John Henry is every black man who spent his life on the lookout for the man when he should have been on the lookout for the machine. John Henry is every black man with bleeding hands. John Henry is every black man who made white folks sing sad songs about how hard it is to be white and watch black folks die. John Henry is every black man with a wife in three states. John Henry is every black man who knows “retirement” is just another name for death in his neighborhood. John Henry is every black man dying to leave something more than a scar on the earth. John Henry is every black man flexing in the mirror and not knowing if he should be proud or terrified.

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