Coal Companies Seek to Erase American Labor History
Coal companies want to blast mine Blair Mountain. But it’s not simply to mine coal. They want to erase its history.
So what is it about Blair Mountain that they don’t want you to know about?
Coal companies have long history fighting unions and violently exploiting their workers. Early in the 20th century working conditions were so bad that black miners who were former slaves said working for the coal company felt no different from slavery. And in 1921 poor white, black, and immigrant miners rallied together for better working conditions and revolted.
Professor Chuck Keeney: “That was very scary to the powers that be in 1921. The idea that you had blacks & whites on the same side arming themselves.”
At Blair Mountain where ten thousand miners faced off against the coal company forces, exchanging a million rounds over the course of 4 days, until the US government intervened on behalf of the coal companies. The Battle of Blair Mountain was — and is still to this day — the largest armed uprising in the US since the Civil War.
Professor Chuck Keeney: “It’s the largest example of people challenging the power structure in West Virginia. Standing up for themselves and standing up for their rights. And there are people who absolutely do not want that to be remembered.”
So after historians spent years to finally make Blair Mt a registered National Historic Place, coal companies managed to reverse the decision using underhanded dishonest tactics. Coal company lawyers included the names of dead people in a list of objectors. One person has been dead since 1983 and yet that individual objected to the listing of Blair Mountain.
In 2016, a federal judge found that the decision to remove Blair Mountain from the National Register of Historic Places was “arbitrary and capricious in violation of [federal law]”. But that hasn’t stopped the coal companies companies from disturbing the site. And they were destroying very specific areas where there were archaeological sites.”
According to retired union miner, Joe Stanley, the site the coal companies disturbed is where the defensive forces set up their machine guns in 1921.
“Why would you pay a mining company to go and mine 2500 feet…
…and they never took one lump of coal out of that. Not one?”
Prof. Chuck Keeney: They do not want this history being memorialized. They don’t want a monument to the United Mine Workers of America. They don’t want the coal companies looking bad in any way shape or form. And the easiest way to make sure that doesn’t happen…is to blow it up.
In 1921 the American working class lost the Battle of Blair Mountain to corporations. But today there’s a new Battle of Blair Mountain.
And the fights not over yet.
National Park Service will be making a final decision on whether to put Blair Mt. back on the National Register of Historic Places this month. They’re accepting comments from the public by Oct 26*** (today!)
Email them now at firstname.lastname@example.org (don’t forget those _underscores_ ;). Tell the National Park Service to protect Blair Mountain.
***UPDATE 11/16/17 : National Park Service is still accepting emails. You can also send an email the new Keeper of the National Registrar, Paul Loether at email@example.com