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Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth is a 1954 film which tells the story of a long, difficult strike by Mexican-American miners against the Empire Zinc Company in Bayard (near Silver City), New Mexico in 1950-1951. The issues were equity in wages with Anglo workers, safety, and health. The film stars Rosaura Revueltas, Will Geer, David Wolfe, Mervin Williams, David Sarvis, Juan Chacón, Henrietta Williams and Ernesto Velázquez; many of the miners and their families had parts in the film.

The movie was written by Michael Biberman and Michael Wilson, directed by Herbert J. Biberman, and produced by Paul Jarrico. All had been blacklisted by Hollywood.

The Washington Post writes: "During the course of production in New Mexico in 1953, the trade press denounced it as a subversive plot, anti-Communist vigilantes fired rifle shots at the set, the film's leading lady was deported to Mexico, and from time to time a small airplane buzzed noisily overhead.... The film, edited in secret, was stored for safekeeping in an anonymous wooden shack in Los Angeles."

The film was denounced on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for its supposed "Communist" sympathies, and the FBI investigated the film's financing. The American Legion called for a boycott. Film-processing labs were told not to handle it. Unionized projectionists were instructed not to show it. After its opening night in New York, the film languished for ten years as theaters refused to screen it.

The story of the film's suppression, as well as the events it depicted, inspired an underground audience of unionists, leftists, feminists, and Mexican-Americans, not to mention film historians. The film found a new life in the '60s and gradually reached wider audiences through union halls, women's centers, and film schools. The fiftieth anniversary of the film saw a number of commemorative conferences held across the U.S.

The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The film has also been preserved by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


A Film Back From the Blacklist: 'Salt,' Restored And Rehabilitated, by Lee Hockstader, Washington Post: March 3, 2003.

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Bibliographical Information on Salt of the Earth