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Matewan

  • Date Submitted: 07/17/2011 12:49 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 76.2 
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“Matewan”

By: Ryan Jones

In the 1920s, unionization was sweeping the United States like a wildfire.   The workers would ignite the fires and the employers would try to extinguish them by any means necessary.   During this time The United Mine Workers of America were trying to organize coal miners in southern Appalachia.   This campaign was led by John L. Lewis, the young president of the UMWA.   Nearly 3,000 miners from south West Virginia had signed up by May of 1920.   Soon the town of Matewan had become the base of operations for the unionization effort in southern West Virginia.

In 1987, film writer/director, John Sayles, with an estimated 4,000,000 dollar budget, has tried to recreate a story of events that may have led to what is now known to most as the “Matewan Massacre”.   His movie takes place in Mingo county, West Virginia during the 1920s.   It is unclear whether or not Sayles has deep roots embedded within the company, or if he is a union man at heart.   Most of the events portrayed in his movie are in conjunction with events that actually occurred.   However, there are some scenes that have been dramatized for the overall Hollywood effect.

In the beginning of the movie he attempts to set the tone.   The workers are dirty, they are working in dark, cramped spaces, and no one is carrying on conversation.   Then the fuse is lit.   The company has dropped the price of coal to 90 cents a ton.   You can look at this from two points of view.   Either the company was trying drop the price in order to be able to continue to operate, or the company was taking advantage of the miners who had nothing except what the company allowed them.   The Stone Mountain Coal Company played a major role in this movie.   The company was very powerful in Mingo County.   The company owned the land, the housing, the store, and the people.   It was like going back to the plantations of old.   The company paid the miners with company script.   The script could only be used to purchase...

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