Category Archives: Uncategorized

Smithsonian’s “Sidedoor”

Smithsonian’s “Sidedoor” podcast recently released a full episode on the history of the Battle of Blair Mountain. It’s an approachable and thoughtful introduction to the topic, featuring interviews with myself and my fellow WV Mine Wars Museum board member Chuck Keeney, along with several other historians…

One hundred years ago, in the hills of West Virginia, Black, white, and European immigrant coal miners banded together to demand better pay and safer working conditions and were met with machine guns. While the story made headlines in 1921, it didn’t make it into the history books. In our final episode of the season, we unearth this buried history to help mark the centennial of the largest labor uprising in American history.

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On Dark and Bloody Ground

Now for sale from West Virginia University Press! This set of oral histories from 1972 circulated for many years as an informal typescript volume, acquiring an almost legendary status among those intrigued by the subject. Key selections appear here for the first time as a published book, supplemented with introductory material, maps, educational resources, and photographs. Published to coincide with the celebration of the Blair Mountain Centennial in 2021, the book includes a preface by me and an afterword by Cecil E. Roberts of the United Mine Workers of America. All proceeds benefit the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum.

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Out of the Fire

Next year, West Virginia University Press will publish a rare 1973 manuscript, On Dark and Bloody Ground: An Oral History of the West Virginia Mine Wars, by Anne Lawrence, with a Foreword by me and an Afterword by none other than Cecil E. Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America. I’m pretty excited to share this treasure with the world! It will include some excellent maps and a few photos as well. Not to mention that Anne has graciously offered to donate all proceeds to the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, where we work to preserve the archives and testimony of local communities affected by these early 20th century battles for unionization in the Central Appalachian coalfields.

“The difference working in a non-union mine and a union mine was like jumping out of the fire into a cool stream of water. Before it was every dog eat dog. When you go into anything collectively, everybody is striving to do the same thing. That’s the only way you can have peace in the coal fields.” –Kelly Buchanan, retired UMWA miner from Matewan, WV

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Glamour

I wrote a short piece for Glamour magazine’s September issue, published alongside the voices of women in Arizona, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Florida, speaking about the issues that will decide their vote ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. “I’m a Woman in a Battleground State. Here’s What Politicians Don’t Understand About Me.” For the record: I don’t hate the city where I started my Ph.D. That was an error introduced in the editing process, over which I had limited control. 😉

CJR

AFTER THE 2016 ELECTION, the calls and emails rolled into West Virginia, as the press scrambled to make sense of a place that hadn’t occupied this much space on the national political stage since John F. Kennedy’s 1960 primary.

“We’re looking for a family in a trailer park.”

“We’re looking for a holler. How do we get there?”

“I need a Trump-supporting son of a coal miner who doesn’t think coal is coming back. Do you know one?”

Even before Donald Trump’s election, Appalachia was treated as a kind of Rosetta stone for deciphering rural white poverty in America. Read More…

Two New Projects

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 1.00.59 PMThe Paint Creek Audio History Project is a geo-located series of radio stories featuring the voices of people who live on beautiful Paint Creek, WV. These ten stories became the basis of an audio driving tour delivered via mobile app, as well as a new website for the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association.

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Cedar Grove draws from the writing of Mary Lee Settle and a chorus of voices from her hometown of Cedar Grove, WV. The project features a photography collaboration with Roger May. Gibbs Kinderman is the executive producer, the editor is Ben Shapiro. Cedar Grove was co-produced by Allegheny Mountain Radio and West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and me.

These projects would not have been possible without support from The West Virginia Humanities Council, the National Coal Heritage Area Authority, the Fayette County Commission, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Rednecks and Heritage Tourism in Yes! Magazine

People Celebrating the 2015 Grand Opening of WV Mine Wars Museum

The room was wall-to-wall rednecks: dust-smudged coal miners, grandmas in flowery dresses, mussy-haired young punks, and old-timers in union ball caps. The red bandannas they wore around their necks spoke of a radical history you won’t read about in the average American history book. This colorful crew of about 500 souls had traveled from neighboring hollers and all over the country to mark the grand opening of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, which I helped launch last weekend in the coalfields of Appalachia. I wrote about it, and the potential for heritage tourism, in Yes! Magazine.

READ THE STORY IN YES! MAGAZINE

MORE RED NECK PHOTO BOOTH AND WV MINE WARS MUSEUM PHOTOS