[Coal Mining History] Opinion: The Redneck Army Refuses to Stay Buried – by Cassady Rosenblum (New York Times – July 21, 2023)


The striking miners were 10,000 strong on the first day of September 1921 as they charged up the slope of Blair Mountain, propelled by a radical faith in the American dream. According to an Associated Press reporter who crouched behind a log and watched through field glasses, each time they pressed forward, a “veritable wall” of machine gun fire drove them back.

As the barrage peeled through the hollows, reminding some of the action they had just seen in the forests of France, the advancing miners soon heard a different sound: deeper, earthshaking explosions. From biplanes above, tear gas, explosive powder and metal bolts rained down. “My God,” screamed one miner fighting his way up Crooked Creek Gap. “They’re bombing us!”

“They” were Sheriff Don Chafin and his deputies, who terrorized the citizens of Logan County, W.Va., by the authority of the coal companies. The miners vastly outnumbered their opponents, but Chafin had the superior position and weapons. “ACTUAL WAR IS RAGING IN LOGAN,” one local paper declared the day before.

The miners were fighting for the right to unionize, and to end the reviled “mine guard system,” a private force of armed guards who brutally enforced the company’s control in the coal fields. Unless the mine guard system was removed, John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers of America, had warned, “the dove of peace” would “never make permanent abode in this stricken territory.”

For the rest of this column: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/21/opinion/culture/west-virginia-strike-coal-miner-history.html