Florence Reece

Florence Reece was the wife of an union organiser for United Mine Workers which was engaged in industrial action in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1931.  One night, they heard that men were coming to kill Sam Reece and he got out of the house just before they arrived. Deputies hired by the mining company entered and searched her home, terrorising Florence and her children in the process.  After they’d gone, Florence was so outraged that she tore the calendar off the kitchen wall and wrote the lyrics to Which Side Are You On? on the back.

Come all you poor workers
Good news to you I’ll tell
How that good old union
Has come in here to dwell

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

We’re starting our good battle
We know we’re sure to win
Because we’ve got the gun thugs
Are looking very thin

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

You go to Harlan County
There is no neutral there
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

They say they have to guard us
To educate their child
Their children live in luxury
Our children almost wild

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

Gentleman, can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can
Will you be a gun thug
Or will you be a man?

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner
He’s now in the Aran sun
He’ll be with you fellow workers
Till every battle’s won

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

Now all of you know which side you’re on
And they’ll never keep us down!

It has recently been covered and updated for the 21st century by Ani DiFranco.

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