A lyrical tapestry of a place and people, “King Coal” on POV explores both a complex history and future – June 24 at 10 pm

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‘POV’ Opens Its 37th Season With Oscar® and Emmy® Nominee Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s Seminal Film

King Coal

About Central Appalachia’s Coal Mining Culture

June 24, 2024  10:00 pm – 11:30 pm

Debuts on PBS Television Nationwide and Streaming on and the PBS App


American Documentary’s multi award-winning series, ‘POV,’ opens its 37th season with the visually stunning observational documentary King Coal, directed by Oscar® and Emmy®-nominated filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon (Heroin(e)). Filmed in Central Appalachia and through the personal memories of McMillion Sheldon – a 4th generation coal miner’s daughter – the film is a collection of vignettes about the cultural roots of coal and its waning impact over a sector of American life, while making space for a dream of the future to emerge.

In the small valley below a verdant green ridge, a group of mourners dressed in black walks along a thin dirt path. Behind them sit grey farm buildings and more misty green mountains.
People gather, dressed in black, to walk in a funeral procession at the top of hill in Kanawha County, West Virginia.

Produced by Academy Award®-winners Shane Boris and Diane Becker (Navalny) and Peabody Award-winner Peggy Drexler (My Name is Pauli Murray), King Coal will make its national broadcast premiere on POV Monday, June 24 2024 at 10pm ETand will be available to stream until December 3, 2024 on and the PBS App.

“One theme of POV’s Season 37 slate is how modernity brushes up against traditional cultures,” said Chris White, Executive Producer, American Documentary. “King Coal, a singular, lyrical interpretation and excavation of the culture, history and economy of Appalachian coal country strikes the right tone as the season opener. Director Elaine McMillion Sheldon is a daughter of the place. Utilizing a hybrid approach of video and narration to tell the stories of the people and place, gives her agency to share an insider’s perspective of a region that is in transition.”

A lyrical tapestry of a place and people, King Coal, meditates on the complex history and future of the coal industry, the communities it has shaped, and the myths it has created. A young girl learning the story of coal anchors the journey while McMillion Sheldon reshapes the boundaries of documentary filmmaking with a deeply moving immersion into Central Appalachia where coal is not just a resource, but a way of life, imagining the ways a community can re-envision itself.

An empty barge floats down a foggy river. On either side of the river are verdant green mountains, which begin to converge at a bend in the river in the distance.
An empty barge floats down the foggy Kanawha River, near Charleston, West Virginia, to pick up a load of coal.

While deeply situated in the regions under the reign of “King Coal,” where McMillion Sheldon has lived and worked her entire life, the film transcends time and place, emphasizing the ways in which all are connected through an immersive mosaic of belonging, ritual, and imagination. Emerging from the long shadows of the coal mines, King Coal untangles the pain from the beauty, and illuminates the innately human capacity for change.

“It’s such an honor to share a story that is so deeply personal to me with a national audience,” said director Elaine McMillion Sheldon. “This film hinges on my own experiences growing up in Appalachia, but also our region’s collective memory, with the goal of dreaming a new future together.”

King Coal will be available for streaming concurrently with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.