"We in Harlan County have been kicked around, we've been put in jail, we've been shot at, we've had dynamite thrown at us, and you don't want us to have nothin'. Well, I tell you, Mr. Horn, I'm gonna be standing right there on that picket line looking at you just as long as it takes."
- Bill Doan, Harlan County miner, addressing one of the representatives of the Duke Power Company
When the coal miners of Brookside Mine in Harlan County, Kentucky voted to join the United Mine Workers of America, they were denied their union rights by the Eastover Coal Company and the Duke Power Company, the mine's owning companies that refused to recognize the workers' union affiliation. The miners and their families were living in impoverished conditions in homes paid for by the mining company that did not have running water. The workers went on strike and were met with intimidation from the company owners in the form of police presence at the picket lines and men hired by the power company to frighten the miners and their families and get them to go back to work. Violence ensued, with the strike only coming to an end when a young miner was killed and the Duke Power Company decided to recognize the union. Director Barbara Kopple was only 26 when she began filming the documentary; she spent over a year with the miners and their families working to gain their trust. She was right beside them on the picket line and experienced a great deal of violence inflicted by the Duke Power Company.