American Folksongs of Protest

By John Greenway | Go to book overview

4. Songs of the miners

We have eyes to see like yours
Way down in the deep, deep mine;
But there's nothing to see but the dreadful dark
Where the sun can never shine
On the banks of the clammy coal.
Our lamps cast a flickering light
At the dreary bottom of the moist black hole
In the land of the noonday night.1

America's Hundred Years' War was fought in the coal fields. Since 1849, when an English Chartist named John Bates formed in Pennsylvania's Schuylkill County the first American miners' union, there have been hundreds of battles in this continuous struggle, and "battle" when used to describe the contention between the miners and operators is not a figure of speech. "There's blood on the coal and blood on the mines," one song says, "and blood on the mine owners' hands." The miners lost most of these

____________________
1
From the Amalgamated Journal, December 25, 1902. George Korson's research among the coal miners has been the only work of any thoroughness in the field of labor protest song. Since this chapter is to be read as a supplement to his studies ( Songs and Ballads of the Anthracite Miner, New York, 1927; Minstrels of the Mine Patch, Philadelphia, 1938; Coal Dust on the Fiddle, Philadelphia, 1943; Pennsylvania Songs and Legends, Philadelphia, 1949) I have not included any of these songs except "Mother Jones" and "Miner's Life." See also Aunt Molly Jackson's songs.

-147-

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American Folksongs of Protest
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • To Ruth v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1. an Historical Survey 21
  • 2. Negro Songs of Protest 67
  • 3. the Songs of the Textile Workers 121
  • 4. Songs of the Miners 147
  • 5. the Migratory Workers 173
  • 6. Songs of the Farmers 209
  • 7. a Labor Miscellany 225
  • 8. the Song-Makers 243
  • Appendix 311
  • Bibliography 329
  • List of Composers 339
  • List of Songs and Ballads 341
  • Index 345
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