Harlan County USA

Harlan County USA documents the life and struggles of a group of coal miners, as they resort to a strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973.

Outrage over the fact that Eastover Mining Company refused to sign a contract for better employer livelihood and security, these coal miners would continue their strike for over a year.

During this time, the strike would intensify from talks to violent battles between gun-carrying company thugs, picketing miners and their very angry wives.

Apart from following the coal miners, the documentary film further illuminates the cause of the strike by giving us some background on the historical plight of the miners and some history of the UMWA (The United Mine Workers).

To date, Harlan County USA remains a piece of modern worker history – where the struggling underdog takes charge and fights the faceless, greedy, corporations, to fight back and gain a better living standard.

These fights with seemingly insurmountable odds to strike up agreements between the company and the union in this Harlan County town dip back as far as a bloody battle there during the 1930s.

The film removes the presumptions that such human atrocities are far gone memories of America’s past, and would pave the way for other important pro-workers rights films as “Norma Rae”, “Silkwood”, and “Matewan”.

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Harlan County USA
  • Info
  • Release date1976
  • Full runtime1 hour 45 min
  • Directed byBarbara Kopple
  • Production CompanyCabin Creek
  • Produced forCinema 5 Distributing, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Yleisradio (YLE)