Dreadful Memories: The Life of Sarah Ogan Gunning (Film)

Dreadful Memories: The Life of Sarah Ogan Gunning

  •  Mimi Pickering
  •  1988
  • Color IconColor
  •  38:27
  •  3/4" U-matic video
Film Description
For decades Sarah Ogan Gunning wrote and performed hauntingly beautiful ballads about the lives of the working people. Born in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields in 1910, Gunning lived through the organizing drives, coal mine strikes, and bitter poverty of the 1920s and '30s. This program intercuts rare documentary film clips and photographs of early mining life with Sarah's most affecting songs, including when she sings: "I hate the capitalist system / I'll tell you the reason why / They cause me so much suffering / And my dearest friends to die."

Screenings & Festivals
  • Atlanta Independent Film & Video Festival
  • W.O.W. Women's Film & Video Festival
  • Athens International Film & Video Festival
  • The Learning Channel

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“In a society that can honor Loretta Lynn or Emmylou Harris, but not Sarah Ogan Gunning, clearly something is wrong. We haven’t been able to deal with our roots [or] our giants.” — Labor historian Archie Green
“A fine and moving testament to a hard life and a slice of history coal interests would probably rather forget. It is a reminder of the realities of class, the sort of footnote whole new books come from, full of real details and real people.” — Now and Then Magazine
“Recounting the life of one of the greatest Appalachian folk singers of modern times ... it is a poignant, touching and memorable look and is certainly recommended viewing.” — Southern Folk Quarterly
“Anyone interested in the history of the labor movement and the National Miners Union, women's history, or the New York folk scene of the 1940s will find this program fascinating, and anyone wanting to hear some truly fine singing — the kind we hear less and less of these days — will be delighted.” — The Old Time Herald