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Two stories of the African Diaspora in early America. One of faith and community, and one of legendary resilience.
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Catholic Hill, formerly known as Thompson’s Crossroads, is an area steeped in history. The predominant feature on the landscape is the 1935, gothic-revival inspired St. James the Greater Catholic Church and its recently renovated 1901 school house.
The first church on the spot was dedicated in 1832 and burned in 1856. Very little is known from that point until the 1890’s when it was learned that a group of former slaves and their descendants, with a vibrant and thriving faith, was worshipping in the area. Soon a new church and school was built. While mass was celebrated by itinerant priests twice a month at the church, the leadership flourished under the dedicated men and women of the church striving to preserve and strengthen the faith of the community on an everyday basis.
The present church, which was built in 1935, is home to a new generation of followers maintaining their strong Catholic Faith. Today’s congregation works tirelessly to preserve both the memory of those who came before them and safeguard the legacy for many generations to come.
This film focuses on the religion in South Carolina, early Catholicism, slavery, the history of St. James the Greater, and its importance to the Catholic Hill Community.
THE BALLAD OF JOHN HENRY is an ambitious 50-minute documentary film analyzing how an ex-slave became one of America’s greatest tall tale heroes.
The heroic legacy of John Henry speaks to the needs of most Americans. His fame today rests on a single moment. The competition against the steam drill may have sealed his fate, but he died to preserve the dignity of the common man. Dozens of men by the same name have been attributed as the real-life tall tale hero. Only one person, a convict, is the most obvious choice according to the historical evidence.
Based on Scott Reynolds Nelson’s book, Steel Drivin’ Man, this story presents a new perspective on a famous tall tale often taught in classrooms around the country. The film sheds new light on an unjust legal system developed after the Civil War replacing slavery with a new labor-based economy, the convict lease program.