Questions of class and gender in Appalachia have, in the wake of the 2016 presidential election and the runaway success of Hillbilly Elegy, moved to the forefront of national conversations about politics and culture. From Todd Snyder, a first generation college student turned college professor, comes a passionate commentary on these themes in a family memoir set in West Virginia coal country.
12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym is the story of the author’s father, Mike “Lo” Snyder, a fifth generation West Virginia coal miner who opened a series of makeshift boxing gyms with the goal of providing local at-risk youth with the opportunities that eluded his adolescence. Taking these hardscrabble stories as his starting point, Snyder interweaves a history of the region, offering a smart analysis of the costs—both financial and cultural—of an economy built around extractive industries.
Part love letter to Appalachia, part rigorous social critique, readers may find 12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym—and its narrative of individual and community strength in the face of globalism’s headwinds—a welcome corrective to popular narratives that blame those in the region for their troubles.
What happens when fossil fuels run out? How do communities and cultures survive?
Central Appalachia and south Wales were built to extract coal, and faced with coal’s decline, both regions have experienced economic depression, labor unrest, and out-migration. After Coal focuses on coalfield residents who chose not to leave, but instead remained in their communities and worked to build a diverse and sustainable economy. It tells the story of four decades of exchange between two mining communities on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and profiles individuals and organizations that are undertaking the critical work of regeneration.
The stories in this book are told through interviews and photographs collected during the making of After Coal, a documentary film produced by the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University and directed by Tom Hansell. Considering resonances between Appalachia and Wales in the realms of labor, environment, and movements for social justice, the book approaches the transition from coal as an opportunity for marginalized people around the world to work toward safer and more egalitarian futures.
Coal is West Virginia’s bread and butter. For more than a century, West Virginia has answered the energy call of the nation—and the world—by mining and exporting its coal. In 2004, West Virginia’s coal industry provided almost forty thousand jobs directly related to coal, and it contributed $3.5 billion to the state’s gross annual product. And in the same year, West Virginia led the nation in coal exports, shipping over 50 million tons of coal to twenty-three countries. Coal has made millionaires of some and paupers of many. For generations of honest, hard-working West Virginians, coal has put food on tables, built homes, and sent students to college. But coal has also maimed, debilitated, and killed.
Bringing Down the Mountains provides insight into how mountaintop removal has affected the people and the land of southern West Virginia. It examines the mechanization of the mining industry and the power relationships between coal interests, politicians, and the average citizen. Shirley Stewart Burns holds a BS in news-editorial journalism, a master’s degree in social work, and a PhD in history with an Appalachian focus, from West Virginia University. A native of Wyoming County in the southern West Virginia coalfields and the daughter of an underground coal miner, she has a passionate interest in the communities, environment, and histories of the southern West Virginia coalfields. She lives in Charleston, West Virginia.
In Coal in Our Veins, Erin Thomas employs historical research, autobiography, and journalism to intertwine the history of coal, her ancestors' lives mining coal, and the societal and environmental impacts of the United States' dependency on coal as an energy source. In the first part of her book, she visits Wales, native ground of British coal mining and of her emigrant ancestors. The Thomases' move to the coal region of Utah—where they witnessed the Winter Quarters and Castle Gate mine explosions, two of the worst mining disasters in American history—and the history of coal development in Utah form the second part.
Then Thomas investigates coal mining and communities in West Virginia, near her East Coast home, looking at the Sago Mine collapse and more widespread impacts of mining, including population displacement, mountain top removal, coal dust dispersal, and stream pollution, flooding, and decimation. The book's final part moves from Washington D.C.—and an examination of coal, CO2, and national energy policy—back to Utah, for a tour of a coal mine, and a consideration of the Crandall Canyon mine cave-in, back to Wales and the closing of the oldest operating deep mine in the world and then to a look at energy alternatives, especially wind power, in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Drawing on powerful personal testimonies of the hazards of mountaintop removal in southern West Virginia, Combating Mountaintop Removal critically examines the fierce conflicts over this violent and increasingly prevalent form of strip mining. Bryan T. McNeil documents the changing relationships among the coal industry, communities, environment, and economy from the perspective of local grassroots activist organizations and their broader networks.
Focusing on Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW), an organization composed of individuals who have personal ties to the coal industry in the region, the study reveals a turn away from once-strong traditional labor unions and the emergence of community-based activist organizations. By framing social and moral arguments in terms of the environment, these innovative hybrid movements take advantage of environmentalism's higher profile in contemporary politics. In investigating the local effects of globalization and global economics, McNeil tracks the profound reimagining of social and personal ideas such as identity, history, and landscape and considers their roles in organizing an agenda for progressive community activism.
Culture, Class, and Politics in Modern Appalachia takes stock of the field of Appalachian studies as it explores issues still at the center of its scholarship: culture, industrialization, the labor movement, and twentieth-century economic and political failure and their social impact. A new generation of scholars continues the work of Appalachian studies’ pioneers, exploring the diversity and complexity of the region and its people. Labor migrations from around the world transformed the region during its critical period of economic growth. Collective struggles over occupational health and safety, the environment, equal rights, and civil rights challenged longstanding stereotypes. Investigations of political and economic power and the role of social actors and social movements in Appalachian history add to the foundational work that demonstrates a dynamic and diverse region.
This account of the struggle for coal mine health and safety legislation in the U.S. examines the series of laws that steadily expanded the role of the federal government from the late 1800s through the 1980s. Curran concludes that federal legislation has done little to improve change conditions in the coal mines.
To many rural Iowans, the stock market crash on New York’s Wall Street in October 1929 seemed an event far removed from their lives, even though the effects of the crash became all too real throughout the state. From 1929 to 1933, the enthusiastic faith that most Iowans had in Iowan President Herbert Hoover was transformed into bitter disappointment with the federal government. As a result, Iowans directly questioned their leadership at the state, county, and community levels with a renewed spirit to salvage family farms, demonstrating the uniqueness of Iowa’s rural life.
Beginning with an overview of the state during 1929, Lisa L. Ossian describes Iowa’s particular rural dilemmas, evoking, through anecdotes and examples, the economic, nutritional, familial, cultural, industrial, criminal, legal, and political challenges that engaged the people of the state. The following chapters analyze life during the early Depression: new prescriptions for children’s health, creative housekeeping to stretch resources, the use of farm “playlets” to communicate new information creatively and memorably, the demise of the soft coal mining industry, increased violence within the landscape, and the movement to end Prohibition.
The challenges faced in the early Great Depression years between 1929 and 1933 encouraged resourcefulness rather than passivity, creativity rather than resignation, and community rather than hopelessness. Of particular interest is the role of women within the rural landscape, as much of the increased daily work fell to farm women during this time. While the women addressed this work simply as “making do,” Ossian shows that their resourcefulness entailed complex planning essential for families’ emotional and physical health.
Ossian’s epilogue takes readers into the Iowa of today, dominated by industrial agriculture, and asks the reader to consider if this model that stemmed from Depression-era innovation is sustainable. Her rich rural history not only helps readers understand the particular forces at work that shaped the social and physical landscape of the past but also traces how these landscapes have continued in various forms for almost eighty years into this century.
Diamonds in the Rough reconstructs the historical moment that defined the Cahaba Coal Field, a mineral-rich area that stretches across sixty-seven miles and four counties of central Alabama.
Combining existing written sources with oral accounts and personal recollections, James Sanders Day’s Diamonds in the Rough describes the numerous coal operations in this region—later overshadowed by the rise of the Birmingham district and the larger Warrior Field to the north.
Many of the capitalists are the same: Truman H. Aldrich, Henry F. DeBardeleben, and James W. Sloss, among others; however, the plethora of small independent enterprises, properties of the coal itself, and technological considerations distinguish the Cahaba from other Alabama coal fields. Relatively short-lived, the Cahaba coal-mining operation spanned from discovery in the 1840s through development, boom, and finally bust in the mid-1950s.
Day considers the chronological discovery, mapping, mining, and marketing of the field’s coal as well as the issues of convict leasing, town development, welfare capitalism, and unionism, weaving it all into a rich tapestry. At the heart of the story are the diverse people who lived and worked in the district—whether operator or miner, management or labor, union or nonunion, white or black, immigrant or native—who left a legacy for posterity now captured in Diamonds in the Rough. Largely obscured today by pine trees and kudzu, the mining districts of the Cahaba Coal Field forever influenced the lives of countless individuals and families, and ultimately contributed to the whole fabric of the state of Alabama.
Winner of the 2014 Clinton Jackson Coley Award for Best Work on Alabama Local History from the Alabama Historical Association
Face Boss tells a story that few people have heard: what it is really like to labor inside the dark and dangerous world of a vast underground coal mine. With unflinching honesty, as well as considerable humor and insight, Michael Guillerman recalls his nearly eighteen years of working as both a union miner and a salaried section foreman-or “face boss”-at the Peabody Coal Company's Camp No. 2 mine in Union County, Kentucky.
Guillerman undertook this memoir because of the many misconceptions about coal mining that were evidenced most recently in the media coverage of the 2006 Sago Mine disaster. Shedding some much-needed light on this little-understood topic, Face Boss is riveting, authentic, and often raw. Guillerman describes in stark detail the risks, dangers, and uncertainties of coal mining: the wildcat and contract strikes, layoffs, shutdowns, mine fires, methane ignitions, squeezes, and injuries. But he also discusses the good times that emerged despite perilous working conditions: the camaraderie and immense sense of accomplishment that came with mining hundreds of tons of coal every day. Along the way, Guillerman spices his narrative with numerous anecdotes from his many years on the job and discusses race relations within mining culture and the expanding role of women in the industry.
While the book contributes significantly to the general knowledge of contemporary mining, Face Boss is also a tribute to those men and women who toil anonymously beneath the rolling hills of western Kentucky and the other coal-rich regions of the United States. More than just the story of one man's life and career, it is a stirring testament to the ingenuity, courage, and perseverance of the American coal miner.
Michael D. Guillerman worked for the Peabody Coal Company from 1974 to 1991. Over his long career, his jobs included belt shoveler, timberman, shooter, drill and shuttle car operator, rock duster, and finally section foreman. Now retired, he lives with his wife, Marie, in Union County, Kentucky.
The first intensive analysis of sense of place in American mining towns, Hard as the Rock Itself: Place and Identity in the American Mining Town provides rare insight into the struggles and rewards of life in these communities. David Robertson contends that these communities - often characterized in scholarly and literary works as derelict, as sources of debasing moral influence, and as scenes of environmental decay - have a strong and enduring sense of place and have even embraced some of the signs of so-called dereliction.
Robertson documents the history of Toluca, Illinois; Cokedale, Colorado; and Picher, Oklahoma, from the mineral discovery phase through mine closure, telling for the first time how these century-old mining towns have survived and how sense of place has played a vital role.
Acknowledging the hardships that mining's social, environmental, and economic legacies have created for current residents, Robertson argues that the industry's influences also have contributed to the creation of strong, cohesive communities in which residents have always identified with the severe landscape and challenging, but rewarding way of life.
Robertson contends that the tough, unpretentious appearance of mining landscapes mirrors qualities that residents value in themselves, confirming that a strong sense of place in mining regions, as elsewhere, is not necessarily wedded to an attractive aesthetic or even to a thriving economy.
Mining historians, geographers, and other students of place in the American landscape will find fascinating material in Hard As the Rock Itself.
On April 5, 1918, as American troops fought German forces on the Western Front, German American coal miner Robert Prager was hanged from a tree outside Collinsville, Illinois, having been accused of disloyal utterances about the United States and chased out of town by a mob. In Labor, Loyalty, and Rebellion: Southwestern Illinois Coal Miners and World War I, Carl R. Weinberg offers a new perspective on the Prager lynching and confronts the widely accepted belief among labor historians that workers benefited from demonstrating loyalty to the nation.
The first published study of wartime strikes in southwestern Illinois is a powerful look at a group of people whose labor was essential to the war economy but whose instincts for class solidarity spawned a rebellion against mine owners both during and after the war. At the same time, their patriotism wreaked violent working-class disunity that crested in the brutal murder of an immigrant worker. Weinberg argues that the heightened patriotism of the Prager lynching masked deep class tensions within the mining communities of southwestern Illinois that exploded after the Great War ended.
On May 19, 1920, gunshots rang through the streets of Matewan, West Virginia, in an event soon known as the “Matewan Massacre.” Most historians of West Virginia and Appalachia see this event as the beginning of a long series of tribulations known as the second Mine Wars. But was it instead the culmination of an even longer series of proceedings that unfolded in Mingo County, dating back at least to the Civil War? Matewan Before the Massacre provides the first comprehensive history of the area, beginning in the late eighteenth century continuing up to the Massacre. It covers the relevant economic history, including the development of the coal mine industry and the struggles over land ownership; labor history, including early efforts of unionization; transportation history, including the role of the N&W Railroad; political history, including the role of political factions in the county’s two major communities—Matewan and Williamson; and the impact of the state’s governors and legislatures on Mingo County.
Winner of the 2018 Western Social Science Association Distinguished Book Award
Though mining is an infamously masculine industry, women make up 20 percent of all production crews in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin—the largest coal-producing region in the United States. How do these women fit into a working culture supposedly hostile to females? This is what anthropologist Jessica Smith Rolston, herself a onetime mine worker and the daughter of a miner, set out to discover. Her answers, based on years of participant-observation in four mines and extensive interviews with miners, managers, engineers, and the families of mine employees, offer a rich and surprising view of the working “families” that miners construct. In this picture, gender roles are not nearly as straightforward—or as straitened—as stereotypes suggest.
Gender is far from the primary concern of coworkers in crews. Far more important, Rolston finds, is protecting the safety of the entire crew and finding a way to treat each other well despite the stresses of their jobs. These miners share the burden of rotating shift work—continually switching between twelve-hour day and night shifts—which deprives them of the daily rhythms of a typical home, from morning breakfasts to bedtime stories. Rolston identifies the mine workers’ response to these shared challenges as a new sort of constructed kinship that both challenges and reproduces gender roles in their everyday working and family lives.
Crews’ expectations for coworkers to treat one another like family and to adopt an “agricultural” work ethic tend to minimize gender differences. And yet, these differences remain tenacious in the equation of masculinity with technical expertise, and of femininity with household responsibilities. For Rolston, such lingering areas of inequality highlight the importance of structural constraints that flout a common impulse among men and women to neutralize the significance of gender, at home and in the workplace.
At a time when the Appalachian region continues to dominate discussion of mining culture, this book provides a very different and unexpected view—of how miners live and work together, and of how their lives and work reconfigure ideas of gender and kinship.
New paperback edition with an introduction by Robert B. Reich
Monongah: The Tragic Story of the 1907 Monongah Mine Disaster documents the events and conditions that led to the worst industrial accident in the history of the United States. This mining accident claimed hundreds of lives on the morning of December 6, 1907 and McAteer, an expert on mine and workplace health and safety, delves deeply into the economic forces and social-political landscape of the mining communities of north central West Virginia to expose the truth behind this tragedy. After nearly thirty years of exhaustive research, McAteer determines that close to 500 men and boys—many of them immigrants—lost their lives that day, leaving hundreds of women widowed and more than one thousand children orphaned.
The tragedy at Monongah led to a greater awareness of industrial working conditions, and ultimately to the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, which McAteer helped to enact. This new paperback edition includes an introduction by Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration.
Residents of the Appalachian coalfields share a history and heritage, deep connections to the land, and pride in their own resilience. These same residents are also profoundly divided over the practice of mountaintop mining—that is, the removal and disposal in nearby valleys of soil and rock in order to reach underlying coal seams. Companies and some miners claim that the practice has reduced energy prices, earned income for shareholders, and provided needed jobs. Opponents of mountaintop mining argue that it poisons Appalachia’s waters and devastates entire communities for the sake of short-term gains.
This conflict is emblematic of many other environmental disputes in the United States and around the world, disputes whose intensity derives not only from economic and environmental stakes but also from competing claims to individual and community identity. Looking beyond the slogans and seemingly irreconcilable differences, however, can reveal deeper causes of conflict, such as flawed institutions, politics, and inequality or the strongly held values of parties for whom compromise is difficult to achieve.
Mountaintop Mining in Appalachia focuses on the people of the region, the people who have the most at stake and have been the most active in trying to shift views and practices. By examining the experiences of these stakeholders and their efforts to effect change, Susan F. Hirsch and E. Franklin Dukes introduce key concepts and theories from the field of conflict analysis and resolution. They provide a compelling case study of how stakeholders challenge governance-as-usual, while offering insight into the causes of conflict over other environmental issues.
In 1986 Lon Savage published Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920–21, a popular history now considered a classic. Among those the book influenced are Denise Giardina, author of Storming Heaven, and John Sayles, writer and director of Matewan. When Savage passed away, he left behind an incomplete book manuscript about a lesser-known Mother Jones crusade in Kanawha County, West Virginia. His daughter Ginny Savage Ayers drew on his notes and files, as well as her own original research, to complete Never Justice, Never Peace—the first book-length account of the Paint Creek–Cabin Creek Strike of 1912–13.
Savage and Ayers offer a narrative history of the strike that weaves together threads about organizer Mother Jones, the United Mine Workers union, politicians, coal companies, and Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency guards with the experiences of everyday men and women. The result is a compelling and in-depth treatment that brings to light an unjustly neglected—and notably violent—chapter of labor history. Introduced by historian Lou Martin, Never Justice, Never Peace provides an accessible glimpse into the lives and personalities of many participants in this critical struggle.
The Rebel in the Red Jeep follows the personal and professional experiences of Ken Hechler, the oldest living person to have served in the US Congress, from his childhood until his marriage at 98 years of age.
This biography recounts a century of accomplishments, from Hechler’s introduction of innovative teaching methods at major universities, to his work as a speechwriter and researcher for President Harry Truman, and finally to his time representing West Virginia in the US House of Representatives and as the secretary of state.
In West Virginia, where he resisted mainstream political ideology, Hechler was the principal architect behind the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 and constantly battled big coal, strip-mining, and fellow politicians alike. He and his signature red jeep remain a fixture in West Virginia. Since 2004, Hechler has campaigned against mountaintop removal mining. He was arrested for trespassing during a protest in 2009 at the age of 94.
Set in the ruins of his family’s strip-mined homestead in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, award-winning journalist and historian Jeff Biggers delivers a deeply personal portrait of the overlooked human and environmental costs of our nation’s dirty energy policy. Beginning with the policies of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, chronicling the removal of Native Americans and the hidden story of legally sanctioned black slavery in the land of Lincoln, Reckoning at Eagle Creek vividly describes the mining wars for union recognition and workplace safety, and the devastating consequences of industrial strip-mining. At the heart of our national debate over climate change and the crucial transition toward clean energy, Biggers exposes the fallacy of “clean coal” and shatters the marketing myth that southern Illinois represents the “Saudi Arabia of coal.”
Reckoning at Eagle Creek is ultimately an exposé of “historicide,” one that traces coal’s harrowing legacy through the great American family saga of sacrifice and resiliency and the extraordinary process of recovering our nation’s memory.
A coal mining technique practiced in southern West Virginia known as mountaintop removal is drastically altering the terrain of the Appalachian Mountains. Peaks are flattened and valleys are filled as the coal industry levels thousands of acres of forest to access the coal, in the process turning the forest into scrubby shrublands and poisoning the water. This is dangerous and environmentally devastating work, but as Rebecca R. Scott shows in Removing Mountains, the issues at play are vastly complicated.
In this rich ethnography of life in Appalachia, Scott examines mountaintop removal in light of controversy and protests from environmental groups calling for its abolishment. But Removing Mountains takes the conversation in a new direction, telling the stories of the businesspeople, miners, and families who believe they depend on the industry to survive. Scott reveals these southern Appalachian coalfields as a meaningful landscape where everyday practices and representations help shape a community's relationship to the environment.
Removing Mountains demonstrates that the paradox that faces this community-forced to destroy their land to make a wage-raises important questions related not only to the environment but also to American national identity, place, and white working-class masculinity.
The Smokeless Coal Fields of West Virginia: A Brief History first appeared in 1963, a little book by a man with no training as either a writer or a historian. Since then, this volume has become an essential sourcebook, consulted and quoted in nearly every study of coal field history. The surprising impact and durability of the book are due to both the information in it and the personality behind it. Through the first half of the twentieth century, William Purviance Tams lived coal. Rising from a young coal engineer to a senior coal baron, Tams stood at the center of Southern West Virginia industrialization. When he sold his company in 1955, Tams was the last of the old owner-operators, men with no personal or financial interest outside of coal. Tams wrote a book which could only have come from an ultimate insider. The everyday work of mining coal is here-laying track, blasting and loading the coal. So is the everyday business of coal, from sinking shafts and ventilating the work area, to administering a town and keeping the workers happy.
Tams gives the financial details of the volatile business, and offers capsule biographies of the other major developers of the Southern West Virginia coal fields. It was a passion for Tams. He never married, and tended his business and his town with paternal care. After retirement, this industrial baron spent his final decades in a modest bungalow in his little coal-camp community, watching the town he had built fade back into the mountains. It is W. P. Tams's passion and attitude, as much as his place at the center of history, which make The Smokeless Coal Fields of West Virginia worth reading nearly 40 years after its first publication. Tams's 1963 account of his career, The Smokeless Coal Fields of West Virginia, offers a unique perspective on the business and the life of coal mining. The book is especially valuable for its account of the daily life and work of the miners, engineers, and families in the mines and in the mining towns. Our reprint of this fascinating and important book combines Tams's original work with a new introduction by Ronald D. Eller, author of Miners, Millhands, & Mountaineers.
Southern Illinois Coal: A Portfolio
C. William Horrell. Edited with an Introduction by Herbert K. Russell. Forewordby Jeffrey L. Horrell Southern Illinois University Press, 1995 Library of Congress HD8039.M6152U645 1995 | Dewey Decimal 305.9622
The coal mining photographs of C. William Horrell, taken across the southern Illinois Coal Belt over a twenty-year period from 1966 to 1986, are extraordinary examples of documentary photography—so stark and striking that captions often seem superfluous.
Horrell’s photographs capture the varied phenomena of twentieth-century coal mining technology: the awesome scale of surface mining machines and their impact on the land; massive machines forced into narrow passageways with inches to spare as they carry coal from the face to conveyer belts; and, more significant, the advent of continuous miners, machines that can handle four previously separate processes and which have been a fixture in underground or “deep” mines since the mid-1960s.
Horrell was also intrigued by the related activities of mining, including coal’s processing, cleaning, and transportation, as well as the daily, behind-the-scenes operations that keep mines and miners working. His photographs reflect the beauty of the commonplace—the clothes of the miners, their dinner pails, and their tools—and reveal the picturesque remnants of closed mines: the weathered boards of company houses, the imposing iron beauty of an ancient tipple, and an abandoned building against the lowering sky of an approaching storm. Finally, his portraits of coal minersshow the strength, dignity, and enduring spirit of the men and women who work the southern Illinois coal mines.
Standing Our Ground: Women, Environmental Justice, and the Fight to End Mountaintop Removal examines women’s efforts to end mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia. Mountaintop removal coal mining, which involves demolishing the tops of hills and mountains to provide access to coal seams, is one of the most significant environmental threats in Appalachia, where it is most commonly practiced.
The Appalachian women featured in Barry’s book have firsthand experience with the negative impacts of Big Coal in West Virginia. Through their work in organizations such as the Coal River Mountain Watch and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, they fight to save their mountain communities by promoting the development of alternative energy resources. Barry’s engaging and original work reveals how women’s tireless organizing efforts have made mountaintop removal a global political and environmental issue and laid the groundwork for a robust environmental justice movement in central Appalachia.
“The principal authority for the general treatment of the history of coal, and of iron and steel, in
Alabama is the work of Miss Ethel Armes. The Story of Coal and Iron in Alabama is a comprehensive
and scholarly work portraying in attractive style the growth of the mineral industries in its
relation to the development of the state and of the South, in preparation of which the author spent
more than five years.”
—Thomas McAdory Owen, History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography
On April 5, 2010, an explosion ripped through Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine, killing twenty-nine coal miners. This tragedy was the deadliest mine disaster in the United States in forty years—a disaster that never should have happened. These deaths were rooted in the cynical corporate culture of Massey and its notorious former CEO Don Blankenship, and were part of an endless cycle of poverty, exploitation, and environmental abuse that has dominated the Appalachian coalfields since coal was first discovered there. And the cycle continues unabated as coal companies bury the most insidious dangers deep underground, all in search of higher profits, and hide the true costs from regulators, unions, and investors alike. But the disaster at Upper Big Branch goes beyond the coalfields of West Virginia. It casts a global shadow, calling into bitter question why coal miners in the United States are sacrificed to erect cities on the other side of the world, why the coal wars have been allowed to rage, polarizing the country, and how the world’s voracious appetite for energy is satisfied at such horrendous cost.
With Thunder on the Mountain, Peter A. Galuszka pieces together the true story of greed and negligence behind the tragedy at the Upper Big Branch Mine, and in doing so he has created a devastating portrait of an entire industry that exposes the coal-black motivations that led to the death of twenty-nine miners and fuel the ongoing war for the world’s energy future.
This paperback edition contains a foreword by Denise Giardinia that provides an update on Massey Energy and Donald Blankenship, Chairman and CEO of Massey Energy Company during the UBB disaster, and recounts her own experiences with Massey Energy and the United Mine Workers Association in the 1980s. This edition also includes a notes section and a bibliography.
The company owned the houses. It owned the stores. It provided medical and governmental services. It provided practically all the jobs. Gary, West Virginia, a coal mining town in the southern part of the state, was a creation of U.S. Steel. And while the workers were not formally bound to the company, their fortunes—like that of their community—were inextricably tied to the success of U.S. Steel.
Gary developed in the early twentieth century as U.S. Steel sought a new supply of raw material for its industrial operations. The rich Pocahontas coal field in remote southern West Virginia provided the carbon-rich, low-sulfur coal the company required. To house the thousands of workers it would import to mine that coal bed, U.S. Steel carved a town out of the mountain wilderness. The company was the sole reason for its existence.
In this fascinating book, Ronald Garay tells the story of how industry-altering decisions made by U.S. Steel executives reverberated in the hollows of Appalachia. From the area’s industrial revolution in the early twentieth century to the peak of steel-making activity in the 1940s to the industry’s decline in the 1970s, U.S. Steel and Gary, West Virginia offers an illuminating example of how coal and steel paternalism shaped the eastern mountain region and the limited ways communities and their economies evolve. In telling the story of Gary, this volume freshly illuminates the stories of other mining towns throughout Appalachia.
At once a work of passionate journalism and a cogent analysis of economic development in Appalachia, this work is a significant contribution to the scholarship on U.S. business history, labor history, and Appalachian studies.