Scott Nelson is the Georgia Athletic Association Professor of the Humanities at UGA. His book Steel Drivin’ Man, about the life and legend of John Henry won four national awards including the Curti Prize for best book in US history. His latest book is Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World about how Russian and US competition for grain exports between the 1790s and World War I contributed to wars and revolutions in Ukraine, Russia, and the United States.
How did a ballad about a black man who challenged a steam drill become one of the first blues songs, one of the first country songs, and the most recorded song in American history? Nelson explains how a terrible crime became a folksong, and how a folksong became an American legend.