Scott Nelson is the GAA Professor of History at the University of Georgia and the author of Iron Confederacies (1999); Steel Drivin' Man (2006), which won the OAH Merle Curti Prize; and A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America's Financial Disasters (2012). A children's book entitled Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry (2007) is based on his research. He is a coauthor of A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America's Civil War (2007) and is currently working on a history of the international wheat trade, the Panic of 1873, and the Russian Revolution.
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.