Synopses & Reviews
Telling the powerful story of the West Virginia coal mining rebellions of the early 20th century, this book collects material from the leaders, the miners, and the journalists sent to report on the 1912 and 1921 West Virginia mine warsexplosive examples of strikes and union battles. Featured in the text are articles, speeches, and discussions between union leaders such as Samuel Gompers, Frank Keeney, Fred Mooney, Bill Blizzard, and Mother Jones. Also included are U.S. Senate committee testimonies from miners and their family members describing life and work in the coal camps and explaining their participation in the violence. These facts clearly portray the human cost of industry and present the hard choices of a rebellious and often politically radical populace who refuses to be beleaguered under any circumstances.
"Gun Thugs, Rednecks, and Radicals is a unique documentation of the West Virginia mine wars, using speeches, written testimony, and newspaper articles from Union newspapers to tell the story of the conflict in the voices of those involved." —www.RazorCake.org
"The story of the Mine Wars is shocking." —resolutereader.blogspot.co.uk
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.
About the Author
David Allen Corbin teaches history at the University of Maryland and has received state, regional, and national awards for his work on coal mining history. He is the author of Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.