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Sarah Ogan Gunning (1910-1983) was an American singer and songwriter from the coal mining country of eastern Kentucky, as were her older half-sister Aunt Molly Jackson and her brother Jim Garland.


"Sarah Ogan is the half sister to Aunt Molly Jackson. She's a housewife, and more than a housewife. A mother and more than a mother. She's worked and slaved and fought to save the children of her own home, and to keep her own house, and she was so full of the Union Spirit that she found time to get out in the wind and rain and the hail of bullets from the deputies guns, and make up her own songs and sing them to give nerve and backbone to the starving me that slaved in the coal mines. Somehow, something has always protected Sarah. In all of he adventures, rifle balls have bounced off of her like golf balls off of a mountain. You better not start a taking the groceries away from Sarah's children. You better not try to take the roof from over their heads. You better not even try to cheat her friends, 'cause Sarah's heart is big enough to include all of the folks she knows. Reminds me of this old song, 'My waist it may be slender, My fingers they are small, but I've got a heart that's big enough, love, to face that rifle ball, Lord, to face that rifle ball.' Sarah's father is dead. Sarah's husband is dead. Her little baby boy is dead. The dust from the coal mines gave them that deadly disease called, 'Silicosis'--gets your lungs. Sarah knows what's wrong with this old world. She knows how it needs a fixing. She has paid the price, and has seen the show, and it was terrible, and awful!!!! But Sarah Ogan knows. Sarah Ogan's homemade songs and speeches, made up from actual experience, are deadlier and stronger than rifle bullets, and have cut a wider swath than a machine gun could. She sings about the Union...the One Big Union that has got to come...when the farmers and the working folks all over everywhere get together, shake hands, and stand side by side, back to back, a fighting hell out of the big rich guys that say they own all the land, all of the hills, all of the crops, and all of the coal and iron and gold that's down under the ground. They claim they own all of this stuff. Sarah says they don't. Sarah says it belongs equal and alike to all of us. I say Sarah is right. It damn shore don't belong to no one special feller, nor no one special family, nor no few special families. It belongs equal and alike to all of us. Me, and you. Us. We might be right and we might be wrong, but we got several fellers on our side that said that same thing. Abe Lincoln said it. And one more man said it...and they killed him for saying it. His name was Jesus Christ. Sarah sings the songs of Jesus. She sings them better than a lot of folks do because she sings with the Union Spirit of her dead father, her dead husband, and her little baby boy that died just to rake more and more money into the pocketbooks of the big rich men--the coal operators. Sarah, there aint a man a living that can give you as good a write up as you need...nor tell the love and the hate that is beating in your heart. I done my best. I'm just a praying and a hoping that your songs will 'mow them rich guys down'--and I know they will. Rich folks ain't afraid of bullets. They're more afraid of words. And more of 'songs like Sarah Ogan made up.' Let me introduce now the woman, Sarah Ogan, and some of her songs...."

—Woody Guthrie, Hard Hitting Songs for Hard-Hit People (1967)


I Hate the Capitalist System


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