Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Second Battle of Blair Mountain

In August 1921, during southern West Virginia's coal wars, a pitched battle took place at Blair Mountain. Probably 100 people died, mostly on the miner's side, during the next week. This important event in American labor history has been almost totally forgotten about.

That is, until the West Virginia Division of Culture and History decided to name the site to the National Register of Historic Places. Governor Joe Manchin, while trying to ride the fence, clearly supports this action. Why are they doing it? A couple of reasons. First, there is the potential for mountaintop removal coal mining in the area. Placing the site on the National Register would make stripping that land more difficult. Second, I think there is still significant resistance within the coal companies and their lackeys that rule West Virginia to remembering this important event that is only the largest armed uprising in American history since the Civil War.

I've talked many times before of the hell of mountaintop removal. That the UMWA supports it is a travesty--it is a job destroying, community destroying, environment destroying way of mining coal. But with relatively weak leadership by UMWA president Cecil Roberts, it's hardly surprising that the coal miners are caving on this issue. Maybe it'll take destroying a historically important area to get a little public attention to the issue. That it's the site of a labor struggle makes me skeptical, but Huffington Post is now on the story, so that's a good start. And as with all things coal, Ken Ward is all over it.