Florence Reece wrote the song “Which Side Are You On?” during the violent conflict between miners and coal operators in Harlan County, Kentucky in the early 1930s. Reece reportedly drafted the lyrics after her husband, a union organizer, narrowly avoided being captured by armed men hired by the coal company. In 1941, Pete Seeger and his pro-union folk music group, the Almanac Singers, recorded “Which Side Are You On?” for their popular 1941 album, Talking Union.
How does Reece’s song seek to mobilize Kentucky miners around the union? How does she make the case that the listener must choose a side in the conflict between workers and the company?