The Narrative of John Henry Martin

Reprinted with permission from the North Carolina Collection, Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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The Narrative of John Henry Martin

by Sherman A. James
Southern Cultures, Inaugural Issue: 1993

"The narrative that follows is a quintessential American story."

I first met John Henry Martin in the summer of 1978, five years after I had joined the faculty in the School of Public Health of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Our meeting was arranged by a mutual acquaintance, a perceptive public health nurse at a local Neighborhood Health Center. After hearing me describe a research project tentatively entitled “Black Men: Their Lives and Their Health” that I was planning to conduct in the eastern part of the state, she thought that a “Mr. John Martin” (she did not mention his middle name), a retired farmer in a nearby community, might provide some interesting background material for my project. She agreed to contact him and to arrange an interview.