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They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History (Oxford Oral History)


They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History (Oxford Oral History) Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Made famous in the 1976 documentary Harlan County USA, this pocket of Appalachian coal country has been home to generations of miners--and to some of the most bitter labor battles of the 20th century. It has also produced a rich tradition of protest songs and a wealth of fascinating culture and custom that has remained largely undiscovered by outsiders, until now.

They Say in Harlan County is not a book about coal miners so much as a dialogue in which more than 150 Harlan County women and men tell the story of their region, from pioneer times through the dramatic strikes of the 1930s and '70s, up to the present. Alessandro Portelli draws on 25 years of original interviews to take readers into the mines and inside the lives of those who work, suffer, and often die in them--from black lung, falling rock, suffocation, or simply from work that can be literally backbreaking. The book is structured as a vivid montage of all these voices--stoic, outraged, grief-stricken, defiant--skillfully interwoven with documents from archives, newspapers, literary works, and the author's own participating and critical voice. Portelli uncovers the whole history and memory of the United States in this one symbolic place, through settlement, civil war, slavery, industrialization, immigration, labor conflict, technological change, migration, strip mining, environmental and social crises, and resistance. And as hot-button issues like mountain-top removal and the use of "clean coal" continue to hit the news, the history of Harlan County--especially as seen through the eyes of those who lived it--is becoming increasingly important.

With rare emotional immediacy, gripping narratives, and unforgettable characters, They Say in Harlan County tells the real story of a culture, the resilience of its people, and the human costs of coal mining.

About the Author

Alessandro Portelli is Professor of American Literature at the University of Rome-La Sapienza. He is the author of The Death of Luigi Trastulli: Form and Meaning in Oral History; The Text and the Voice: Speaking, Writing, and Democracy in American Literature; The Battle of Valle Giulia: Oral History and the Art of Dialogue; and The Order Has Already Been Carried Out: History, Memory and Meaning of a Nazi Massacre in Rome, which won Italy's prestigious Viareggio Book Prize.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Harlan County, 1964-2007: A love story

Chapter 1: The Bear and the Sycamore Tree

Chapter 2: Of Hardship and Love

Chapter 3: Wars and Peace

Chapter 4: These Signs Shall Follow Them

Chapter 5: Flush Times and Rough Times

Chapter 6: A Space of Their Own

Chapter 7: Miner's Life

Chapter 8: Identities

Chapter 9: No Neutrals there

Chapter 10: God, Guns, and Guts

Chapter 11: Harlan on Our Minds

Chapter 12: Exodus

Chapter 13: The Other America

Chapter 14: Democracy and the Mines

Chapter 15: Staying Alive

People I Owe


The Narrators


Product Details

Portelli, Alessandro
Oxford University Press, USA
null, Alessandro
United States - State & Local - South
United States - State & Local - General
Social history
United States - General
History, American | Southern
World History-General
Oxford Oral History
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
Professional and scholarly
18 halftones
6.5 x 9.3 x 1.5 in 1.763 lb

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Engineering » Civil Engineering » Geology and Mining
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History and Social Science » Americana » Southern States
History and Social Science » Law » General
History and Social Science » World History » General
Religion » Comparative Religion » General
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They Say in Harlan County: An Oral History (Oxford Oral History) New Hardcover
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Product details 456 pages Oxford University Press, USA - English 9780199735686 Reviews:
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