Bloody Harlan
December 3, 2010 5:24 PM   Subscribe

In 1972, miners at Duke Energy's Brookside coal mine in Harlan County, KY voted to organize with the United Mineworkers of America. When the company refused to accept a contract, the workers went on strike.

Filmmaker Barbara Kopple went to Harlan County to document the strike for a film on the Miners for Democracy movement, which was attempting to gain control of the UMWA in the wake of the brutal murders of Joseph Yablonski and his family.

Kopple soon decided that the story of the Brookside strike was more compelling and spent over a year filming in Harlan County to create one of the finest documentaries ever made. Harlan County USA is streaming for free on Hulu until the 30th of December.
posted by TrialByMedia (24 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
FYI, for those with netflix, it's also available streaming there as well. Just watched it the other week. Truly one of the greats.
posted by dersins at 5:40 PM on December 3, 2010


The story of the American labour movement is very often forgotten and it is a road drenched in blood. Yablonski was just one victim in a line of many horrible events, some more horrendous than others such as the Ludlow massacre.
posted by Virtblue at 5:40 PM on December 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


Steve Earle - Harlan Man
posted by Flashman at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Harlan County? Are there any neutrals there?
posted by orthogonality at 5:55 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was born that year, about 10 miles away. My uncle was shot at but not hit; he was only passing through and had nothing to do with the strike or the mines.

Is there a separate recording of the version of "O Death" from that movie? I've never found one but then again, I wouldn't know the best places to start looking.
posted by dilettante at 6:02 PM on December 3, 2010


dilettante:
Is there a separate recording of the version of "O Death" from that movie? I've never found one but then again, I wouldn't know the best places to start looking."

I am pretty sure it's on that six-volume American Folk Music Anthology compiled by Harry Brown.
posted by meadowlark lime at 6:12 PM on December 3, 2010


Thanks for this.
posted by dortmunder at 6:19 PM on December 3, 2010


I found a version of O Death on the Smithsonian Folkways "Mountain Songs" collection.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:19 PM on December 3, 2010


Remember Peekskill.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:23 PM on December 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


The New York Cop at the 30 minute mark is awesome.
posted by Reverend John at 6:26 PM on December 3, 2010


Amazing how much it cost in blood and sweat for the gains brought to the common man by unions, and how negligently we've given a lot of them back so the bourgeoisie can trickle down a small fraction of them to us instead.
posted by maxwelton at 6:33 PM on December 3, 2010 [13 favorites]


I first saw this movie a week after Kill Bill came out. I was amazed that after watching a two hour gore fest the violence in the documentary was still shocking and moving.
posted by munchingzombie at 6:34 PM on December 3, 2010


It horrified me that most people don't know enough history to know unionism is what got us where we are, and should be alarmed that society is sliding back to those bad old days.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:38 PM on December 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


Horrifies. Sigh.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:40 PM on December 3, 2010


Love this film. Also check out Working Man's Death, online for free via Snag Films
posted by outlandishmarxist at 6:42 PM on December 3, 2010


Harlan County? Are there any neutrals there?

I've quoted this before, but: "Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." - Paulo Freire
posted by mhoye at 7:16 PM on December 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there.
You'll either be a union man
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.
-- from "Which Side Are You On?", by Florence Patton Reece
posted by orthogonality at 8:15 PM on December 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Saw this in college, where they invited the film-maker to speak about making a documentary. I was usually the art-school-nerd who was eager to ask tech questions of all the visiting artists, but the movie left me too moved. It really changed my ideas about organized labor - workers struggling for their fair share is not only good capitalism, it's downright American.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:20 PM on December 3, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Brains. Those are his brains right there on the ground."
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:22 AM on December 4, 2010


This is great news. That's an amazing movie that I wound up watching by accident because I was going through all the Academy Award documentary winners. Thanks for the post.
posted by jessamyn at 4:31 PM on December 4, 2010


I need a proxy in the U.S. to watch stuff on Hulu:(

In my mind, Harlan County is linked to the Battle of Blair Mountain (due to a great historical fiction novel that I read back in high school, Storming Heaven).
posted by eviemath at 5:57 PM on December 4, 2010


Check out Salt of the Earth.
Cool movie based on real stuff.
posted by brando_calrissian at 11:29 PM on December 4, 2010


Blocked from Hulu, but downloading now. Thanks.
posted by Theta States at 12:06 AM on December 5, 2010


this will be good for me to watch. at the moment i am severely down on unions, having seen firsthand how badly they hobble the state agency I work for (as a contractor). Seeing the other side of things may help me relax a bit.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 2:21 PM on December 5, 2010


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