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William GrimesWhat Mr. Nelson proves is the undying power of the John Henry myth, which reduces almost to a pinpoint the historical figure he resurrects from the archives. Whether or not John William Henry is the man seems almost irrelevant. He is a fascinating guide to the world of the Southern railroads and the grim landscape of Reconstruction. But the real story, and the real John Henry, come to life after his death.
— The New York Times