The Soundtrack of a Miner’s Struggle

“Mine Wars” is a documentary about how Miners unionized and went on strikes against their employers to protest for better working conditions, proper treatment, and fair, honest wages. Coal Companies forced the workers to take a 20% cut in pay, and if they did not comply, work contracts or negotiations would not be recognized. However, “miners were already trapped in a wage system that paid less than $2 a day for a sixteen hour shift” (Biggers, 177). This was just one of the many struggles faced by miners then. Miners constantly went into the mines wondering if they were going to come out. If they were going to see their families at the end of the day. The strikes were violent and, in the end, every effort of the miners to be treated as employees, with basic human rights, failed against the power of the large coal corporations. Many songs and ballads were used to gain national recognition and protest against the unfair treatment. If there were a soundtrack to a miner’s (and his family’s) life, it would been grim and sorrowful. Today, families are still connected to their mining town roots, so the soundtrack would also be strong and hopeful.

  1. Jimmy Joe Lee – The Coal Miner Song
  2. Dwight Yoakam – Miner’s Prayer
  3. Alison Krauss and Union Station – Man of Constant Sorrow
  4. Loretta Lynn – Coal Miner’s Daughter
  5. Sarah Ogan – Come all ye coal miners
  6. Bentley Boys – Down on Penny’s Farm
  7. Gillian welch – Miner’s Refrain
  8. Ted Chestnus – he’s only a miner killed in the ground
  9. Old Crow Medicine Show – Union Maid
  10. Florence Reece/Natalie Merchant – Which side are you on
  11. Steve Earle and The Del McCoury Band – The Mountain
  12. Dock Boggs – Prayers of a miner’s child
  13. Andy Irvine – The Spirit of Mother Jones
  14. Louise Mosrie – The Battle of Blair Mountain
  15. Donovan Howard – West Virginia Coal Miner
  16. Sid Hatfield – The Southern West Virginia Coal Wars
  17. Jack White – Wayfaring Stranger


Biggers, Jeff. “We Shall Overcome.” The United States of Appalachia. Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2006. 169-194. Print.

“Coal-Mining and Protest Music,” Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2016, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 27 Jul 2016 <>

“The Mine Wars.” PBS. Ed. Mark Dugas. PBS, 26 Jan. 2016. Web. 27 July 2016.


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