Blair Mountain in Logan County, West Virginia, was the site of the largest open class war in U.S. history. In 1921, after a generation of violent suppression and exploitation of the people in the southern coalfields of WV, 15,000 coal miners rebelled in an attempt to overthrow the control of coal barons.
1920-1921 Mine War Locations
They met the anti-union forces of the coal-operator army on Blair Mountain and the surrounding ridges. The battlefront was roughly 15 miles long, and more than one million rounds were estimated to have been fired over the course of the five day battle. Both sides were heavily armed with machine guns, high powered rifles, and explosives. The anti-union forces even employed airplanes for reconnaissance as well as for dropping homemade bombs on the miners.
With the battle raging in the hills and hollows around Blair Mountain, federal troops were called in and were able to peacefully stop the conflict without a shot fired. The miners dispersed and went back to their homes, and the news reporters returned to their editors. The battle received above the fold coverage in major newspapers of the day, including the New York Times. But soon, the battle faded into obscurity, and over time has been largely forgotten.
So today, although this battle was the largest insurrection after the Civil War, it is not taught in our schools and most Americans and even West Virginians have never heard about it. Even worse, the battlefield is severely threatened by encroaching surface mining operations, and the fate of this remarkable place is uncertain. We have been attempting over the last 20 years to get the site listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), and this is currently our primary focus. For more on this struggle, please visit our page that fully describes our efforts and where the process is right now.
We will continue to work to save one of West Virginia’s most significant historical resources. We feel that there is a balance that should be sought between historical preservation and the need for jobs in the southern coalfields. We have attempted to seek compromise with coal industry officials by expressing our support for a traditional deep-shaft mine to extract the coal, which would be far less detrimental than the wholesale destruction of surface mining. We would stand-by to advise and work with coal companies in order to best manage and preserve this extremely significant archaeological resource. We feel this would allow us to pass this site on to future generations, create jobs for coal miners (which ostensibly would be union jobs), and generate small business growth in the area from heritage tourism.
We invite you to join us in our efforts. Due to the threat of destruction, Blair Mountain is once again being remembered and its symbolism of resistance is being reinterpreted and reasserted by labor unions and social justice movements in contemporary struggles. The tradition of the red bandanna that the miners wore in 1921 remains today, worn by those working to correct injustices in the southern coalfields, and is a powerful symbol of our long heritage of resistance and activism.
Put on your work boots, tie a red bandanna around your neck, and get to work.
Via Friends of Blair Mountain blog contains information, history, news, and donation area.
In 1921, Blair Mountain, W. Va., was the site of a major milestone in the history of the labor movement when 15,000 union miners took a stand against the coal industry. This week, Blair Mountain may end up being a new milestone in the movement to abolish mountaintop-removal coal mining and perhaps the larger climate justice movement. Hundreds of activists are recreating the miners’ historic march from Marmet to Blair Mountain to try to protect the controversial historic site from being blown up for the thin seam of coal underneath
Blair Mountain: A new milestone in the climate justice movement? via Grist, read the rest there.
Visit the March on Blair Mountain: Appalachia is Rising site to review video from yesterdays event and stay current with today’s events.
cross posted at An Unforgettable Hell on Earth