Catherine Venable Moore — Writer & Producer

“Book of the Dead” Commended by Stack Awards

In Appalachia, Black History, Fayette County, Print, West Virginia History, Women's History on October 23, 2016 at 12:22 pm

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The Stack Awards recognize the best work in independent magazines from all over the world. I recently learned that I was short-listed for a Stack Award in Nonfiction for my longform essay, “The Book of the Dead,” published in the Fall 2016 issue of Oxford American. 

The piece explores the history of the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Disaster and how it was documented in poetry by the writer Muriel Rukeyser. It also offers new revelations about the workers who lost their lives in the process of building the tunnel, three quarters of whom were black migratory laborers.

West Virginia-based photographer Lisa Elmaleh was commissioned to provide art for the story. Though the piece is not yet available online, a new website I built archives some of this history: The Book of the Dead: An Archive of Hawk’s Nest Tunnel Workers. 

UPDATE: “The Book of the Dead” was one of two “Commended” finalists. Congrats to The Outpost, which took home the win! Listen to Stack founder Steven Watson talk about the winning and commended pieces in the video below…

  1. Catherine, this was a spectacular piece of reporting and writing. Well deserving of awards. I am a retired OSHA industrial hygienist who also served 4 years as H&S Director of Molders Union (defunct) in Cincinnati. I wrote my Master thesis on silica dust exposures. Have known about Hawk’s Nest since early 80s. Was depicted in OSHA film made under Carter and banned under Reagan. Your effort to name the victims is remarkable. You are a hero.

    • Jack, thanks for your kind words, and for your service at OSHA and the Molders Union! (Side note of trivia: I was recently reading about how Mother Jones’s husband was an iron molder, and I believe that one of the first exposures she had to labor organizing was through the union he belonged to…) I’m glad I got to write about some of the true heroes of the Hawk’s Nest story in this article, including the local residents who worked so hard to put together the memorial graveyard at Whipporwill, the victims and their descendants who bravely shared their experiences with me and Rukeyser, and the members of the Gauley Bridge Committee who advocated for the workers at the time. They all showed such amazing courage and love. Thanks for reading the story! –Catherine

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