Tag Archives: labor history

Digitizing the Treason Trials

I’m excited to share that all 9,000+ pages of transcripts of the Battle of Blair Mountain Treason Trials are now available for download from West Virginia University Libraries. Several years ago, I worked with my friend Tyler Cannon to scan each and every page–a huge effort made possible by funding from MacDowell / the Calderwood Fund for Project Grants to Journalism Fellows. We donated the scans to WVU, which has now made them publicly available in a blog post as downloadable PDFs. This is an incredible resource for those of us interested in American labor history in the Progressive Era, and until now it has been locked away on reels of microfilm in the library’s vaults, only available to those researchers with the time and resources to come to Morgantown and read them on a special machine. The accounts of events given in these pages by eyewitnesses and others have greatly informed the story I am telling in my forthcoming nonfiction history of the West Virginia Mine Wars, providing detail, texture, and humanity to an otherwise hidden history.

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Whiting Nonfiction Grant

My book-in-progress, Disunion: West Virginia Coal Miners and America’s Other Civil War, was selected for a 2021 Whiting Creative Nonfiction Grant, given yearly to eight writers completing books of “deeply researched and imaginatively composed nonfiction.” Whiting curated a chapbook with excerpts and descriptions of each of the winners’ projects, which include a history of policing in Oakland, CA; a collection of interwoven diaries from Nazi-occupied Netherlands; a biography of the mother of modern Black nationalism; and an argument for the decriminalization of sex work.

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Best and Most Bizarre

A selection of first-person testimonies from On Dark and Bloody Ground was included in the “Readings” column of Harper’s, where the magazine reprints “excerpts from the best and most bizarre new books.”

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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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