Scott Reynolds Nelson's Steel Drivin' Man: John Henry, the Untold Story of an American Legend has won three national awards and one statewide award.
The first was the 2007 Merle Curti Prize from the Organization of American Historians for the best book in U.S. social and cultural history. The committee found the book's writing "elegant" and the research "astonishing."
In April 2007 Steel Drivin' Man won the National Award for Arts Writing from the Arts Club of Washington. The award was $15,000 plus an honorary membership to the Arts Club, which operates from President James Monroe's Washington home, which served as the executive mansion after the British burned what later became known as the White House during the War of 1812. On his last trip to Washington for a book signing at the National Portrait Gallery, Scott got to stay in President Monroe's bedroom.
In September of 2007, he flew to Cleveland to receive the Anisfield-Wolf award, known as "the black Pulitzer," the only juried prize for outstanding work on diversity and race. The prize, which is in its 72nd year, is given for literature, non-fiction, and lifetime achievement. Nelson will collect $10,000 for his nonfiction book. Past winners in that category include Edward Said, David Levering Lewis, Ira Berlin, and Taylor Branch.
Finally, Steel Drivin' Man won the Library of Virginia's Award for non-fiction.