Here are some questions to think about as you read Steel Drivin' Man:

What were the benefits and drawbacks for blacks of migration?

How did John Henry's migrations compare with those of the mill girls?

In what ways was crime defined by politics?

What role did the Federal government play in John Henry's fate?

What was Ex Parte Milligan?  Why was it important?

How did a convict end up working for a privately-owned railroad?

Was Radical Reconstruction helpful to blacks?  To John Henry?

What caused John Henry's death?

What does this book suggest about the relationship of technology and work?

What sort of song was the ballad of John Henry?  What did it sound like?

What was the purpose of work songs?

How was the legend of John Henry transmitted?

What was the toll of southern railroad building?

What was its impact on the working class?

Why is the legend of John Henry so powerful?

 (PS: A special thanks to Kenneth Fones-Wolf of West Virginia University for coming up with these questions).