Sept 1, 1921 Washington Times headline on the Battle of Blair Mountain. (PHOTO: The Clio)
While decreasing our reliance on coal may certainly not be a bad thing, what threatens to disappear along with the coal industry is the history of the very people it was built upon: the miners. Coal country is the center of some of the most violent battles of America’s labor movement, including the Battle Of Blair Mountain, West Virginia, is America’s largest armed uprising outside of the Civil War, and one of the bloodiest battles in our nation’s history.
For four days in 1921, miners clashed with law enforcement, hired security, and local vigilante groups along the Logan county line, trying in vain to free hundreds of their brothers and sisters who had been imprisoned throughout the region under a recent declaration of martial law. The conflict left dozens of miners dead and hundreds more arrested once the National Guard was called in, and all but completely sealed the demise of the fledgling United Mine Worker’s Union.
Ron Soodalter is a freelance journalist, historian, and the author of two books: Hanging Captain Gordon: The Life and Trial of an American Slave Trader, and The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today. He’s also somewhat of an authority on the Battle Of Blair Mountain both past and present, and he sat down with me recently to discuss why the history of Blair Mountain matters so much today.
By the way, my apologies for the intermittent static that you’ll hear throughout the episode; Ron and I had some connectivity issues that just couldn’t be resolved. I promise we’ll do better next time.
Pandaemoneon – Chalice And Blades
The Roughies – Troy Davis Blues
LoFi Satellites – Feet To The Fire
- In the Battle for Blair Mountain, Coal Is Threatening to Bury Labor History – The Progressive
- Ron Soodalter’s Official Website
- The Battle Of Blair Mountain And The Bloody History Of American Coal Mining – ATI
- How West Virginia Lost the Workers' Revolution – Splinter
- The Fight to Save Blair Mountain – Medium
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