Tag Archives: west virginia

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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Letter to America

The literary magazine Terrain is preparing to publish an anthology of writings in response to the current national crises—political, environmental, ethical. They’ve been publishing a series of “Letters to America” ever since the 2016 election. These “letters” take various forms—epistles, poems, fables, even a bit of artwork—but they all respond to the changing American landscape so vividly illuminated by Donald Trump’s win. Writers, artists, intellectuals, activists—citizens of both the country and the planet—have, over the past two years, steadily contributed a variety of literary reactions to the world we all awoke to on the morning of November 9. I’m working on a letter for the anthology, which will sit in good company alongside writings by writer-heroes Robert Hass, Camille Dungy, and Bob Ferguson, the attorney general of Washington who is 17-0 against Trump in court.

UPDATE: “DEAR AMERICA: LETTERS OF HOPE, HABITAT, DEFIANCE, AND DEMOCRACY” NOW OUT

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