Gun Thugs, Rednecks, and Radicals
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197 pages

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Strikes and union battles occurred throughout American industry during the early part of the twentieth century, but none of these stories compare to the West Virginia Mine Wars of 1912 and 1921. These two workers’ rebellions quickly drew national attention to an area known principally for its “black gold,” the coal that was vital for U.S. factories, power plants, and warships of that age.

In 1912, miners struck against the harsh conditions in the work camps of Paint and Cabin Creeks and coal operators responded with force. The ensuing battles caused the West Virginia governor to declare martial law, prompting Samuel Gompers to dub the state “Russianized West Virginia [where] the people can be naught but serfs.”

There was little improvement in working conditions by 1921, when another army—thousands of union miners—went up against similar numbers of state police, local deputies, and paid company guards. The weeklong Battle of Blair Mountain ended only after President Warren Harding sent 2,000 U.S. troops and a small unit of bombers to pacify the region

Gun Thugs, Rednecks, and Radicals tells the story of these union battles as seen by the leaders, rank-and-file participants, and the journalists who came to West Virginia to cover them for papers including The Nation and the New York Times.

Union leaders like Gompers, Frank Keeney, Fred Mooney, Bill Blizzard, and Mother Jones discuss the lives and struggles of the miners for their union. The book also contains articles, speeches, and personal testimony heard by two U.S. Senate committees sent to investigate West Virginia’s labor problems. In this testimony, miners and their family members describe life and work in the coal camps, telling why they participated in these violent episodes in West Virginia history.

Special attention is given to the role of Huntington’s own radical newspaper, The Socialist and Labor Star, a forgotten monument in the history of American heresy and radicalism.



Publié par
Date de parution 02 novembre 2011
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781604866469
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0025€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Gun Thugs, Rednecks, and Radicals: A Documentary History of the West Virginia Mine Wars
David Alan Corbin
© PM Press 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be transmitted by any means without permission in writing from the publisher.
ISBN: 978-1-60486-452-6
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011927957
Cover design by Josh MacPhee/, cover and interior illustration by Chris Stain, "The Battle of Blair Mountain"
Interior design by Lauren Cooper
Transcription by Jacqueline F. Thomas
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
PM Press
PO Box 23912
Oakland, CA 94623
Chapters I-X were originally published in 1990 as The West Virginia Mine Wars: An Anthology by Appalachian Editions, Charleston, W. Va.
Chapter XI was originally published in 1971 as The Socialist and Labor Star: Huntington, W. Va. 1912-1915 by Appalachian Movement Press, Huntington, W. Va.
Map created by Brandon Nida. Credited images courtesy of Goldenseal.
Reprint permission kindly granted by the AFL-CIO, The New York Times Company, The Atlantic, The Nation Company, Inc., the United Mine Workers Journal, and the Baltimore Sun Company.
Printed in the USA on recycled paper, by the Employee Owners of Thomson-Shore in Dexter, Michigan.
Preface by Gordon Simmons
A Complete and Ruthless Rule: Emergence of the Company Town
"Black Avalanche" by Winthrop D. Lane in the Survey
"Company-Owned Americans" by Arthur Gleason in the Nation
Revolution: The Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike
"Russianized West Virginia" by Samuel Gompers in the American Federationist
"Civil War in the West Virginia Coal Mines: The Mine Guards" by Harold E. West in the Survey
Testimony of Gianiana Seville to the U.S. Senate
Testimony of Philip Cajano to the U.S. Senate
"Solidarity Forever" words by Ralph Chaplin
Battle Weaponry: The Bull Moose Special
Testimony of Maud Estep to the U.S. Senate
Testimony of Lee Calvin to the U.S. Senate
Testimony of Quinn Morton to the U.S. Senate
"Senator in a Row with Mining Man" in the New York Times
"Peace in West Virginia" in the Literary Digest
The Organizers
"Civil War in the West Virginia Coal Mines: A Profile of Mother Jones" by Harold E. West in the Baltimore Sun
Proceedings in Charleston, August 15, 1912: A Speech by Mother Jones
"‘Mother’ Jones, Mild-Mannered, Talks Sociology" in the New York Times
Frank Keeney and Fred Mooney
"Clean Coal the Keynote for an Early Victory": A Speech by Frank Keeney
The Shootout: The Matewan Massacre
Testimony of Sid Hatfield to the U.S. Senate
The Hit: The Killing of Sid Hatfield and Ed Chambers
Testimony of Mrs. Sid Hatfield to the U.S. Senate
Testimony of Mrs. Ed Chambers to the U.S. Senate
"The Labor Spy in West Virginia" by Winthrop D. Lane in the Survey
Civil War: The March on Logan
"Private Ownership of Public Officials" by Arthur Gleason in the Nation
Testimony of George Echols to the U.S. Senate
"The War in West Virginia" in the Independent
"Marching through West Virginia" by Heber Blankenhorn in the Nation
"Fighting Unionism with Martial Law" by Arthur Warner in the Nation
"Stand By the Miners of Mingo" by the Communist Party of America
Testimony of Col. Stanley H. Ford to the U.S. Senate
"Jack Dalton vs. Bill Blizzard" by Boyden Sparkes in Leslie’s Weekly
"Five Army Aviators Fall" in the Baltimore Sun
"West Virginia’s Treason Trials" in the Literary
Digest "Treason and Reason" in the Literary Digest
James M. Cain: Novelist and Journalist
"West Virginia: A Mine-Field Melodrama" by James M. Cai in the Nation
"The Battle Ground of Coal" by James M. Cain in the Atlantic Monthly
Victory: The UMWA Comes to Southern West Virginia
"Tidal Wave of Enthusiasm" in the United Mine Workers Journal
"Historic Convention Held" in the United Mine Workers Journal
The History of The Socialist and Labor Star: Huntington, W. Va. 1912–1915
"The Socialist and Labor Star: The Harassment of Heresy" By David A. Corbin
To my brother Ronald Corbin, for his support and encouragement
Long banished from history books and popular consciousness, the West Virginia Mine Wars of the early twentieth century continue to be the subject of a belated process of historical recovery. This is, in part, undoubtedly because those distant events reverberate in current-day matters.
The ongoing fight over the fate of Blair Mountain is a case in point. In 1921, Blair Mountain was the site of an armed insurrection by thousands of coal miners against a force of sheriffs’ deputies and company gun thugs entrenched along the Logan County ridgeline. As the dramatic and culminating action of the Mine Wars, the stakes for both sides were enormous. Either the coal fields of southern West Virginia would remain under the near-absolute hegemony of coal operators or the area would be opened to unionization, making it "safe for democracy," to borrow the rhetoric of the late Great War.
There is today yet another battle over the fate of Blair Mountain. This time the stakes are whether or not the mountain will be devastated and leveled by coal industry giants such as Massey Energy and Arch Coal, not only in order to cheaply extract the mineral wealth beneath its surface, but also, by unhappy coincidence, to eradicate the physical terrain upon which workers engaged their class enemies. In 1921, the West Virginia coal miners fought as resolutely as other workers did in those times in Munich and Turin and Kronstadt and met similar defeat. Such an outcome, however, did not resolve the cause of their struggle, but only prolonged it for a later date.
David Alan Corbin is the author of the most definitive study of that period of open and unrelenting class struggle known as the West Virginia Mine Wars. His book, Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880-1922, is as thorough and comprehensive a treatment of its subject as can be found between two covers. That is not to say, however, that it is by any means exhaustive, and the texts reprinted here demonstrate Corbin’s willingness to return to the period and issues of his book, as he has in his articles in journals and other collections.
The texts gathered here provide, in fact, a coda to Corbin’s continual delving into this much-neglected, but undeniably significant, chapter in the history of American labor. Corbin’s essay on the Socialist and Labor Star was originally published in 1971 by Appalachian Movement Press of Huntington, West Virginia. Appalachian Movement Press was a cooperative, radical press and very much the product of the student New Left, especially the presence of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) on the campus of Huntington’s Marshall University. Besides contemporaneous analyses of the class structure of quasi-colonial West Virginia, the press also issued several pamphlets by poet and labor activist Don West, already then known for his regionalist radicalism. Corbin’s recovery of an important historical moment of West Virginia’s "underground" press fit quite nicely with the aspirations of those who brought Appalachian Movement Press into existence.
Corbin would continue to delve into this overlooked but significant era of American class struggle. In 1977, he contributed to a collection titled Essays in Southern Labor History. The article, "‘Frank Keeney Is Our Leader; and We Shall Not Be Moved’: Rank-and-File Leadership in the West Virginia Coal Fields," foreshadows themes that would, in the 1981 publication of Life, Work, and Rebellion, reveal the local and self-directed nature of the workers’ insurrections.
To challenge longstanding mythology that West Virginians were incapable of autonomous resistance a perception seemingly shared by both coal industry apologists and professional agitators Corbin published a scathing indictment of the latter in the Journal of American History, titled "Betrayal in the West Virginia Coal Fields: Eugene Debs and the Socialist Party of America, 1912-1914." Building on the division of the state’s Socialists between reformist social democrats, predominant in the northern coal fields, and revolutionary syndicalists, more characteristic of unionists in the southern coal fields, Corbin exposed a vein of regional radical history that would be explored by fellow labor historian Fred Barkey in his account of the history of the Socialist Party in early twentieth-century West Virginia. Even as late as 1993, apologists for Debs would be trying to rescue him from Corbin’s indictment, most notably Roger Fagge’s "Eugene V. Debs in West Virginia, 1913: A Reappraisal" published in West Virginia History.
In 1990, Corbin edited the collection also here republished, then as The West Virginia Mine Wars: An Anthology. The purpose was to gather in a single place contemporaneous accounts of both the 19121913 mine war in Cabin and Paint Creeks and the 1920-1921 events culminating in the Armed March on Blai

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