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.
West Virginia is one of the most homogeneous states in the nation, with among the lowest ratios of foreign-born and minority populations among the states. But as this collection of historical studies demonstrates, this state was built by successive waves of immigrant labors, from the antebellum railroad builders to the twentieth-century coal miners. Transnational West Virginia offers a new understanding of how laborers and their communities shape a region's history. Transnational West Virginia includes essays and studies on immigrant networks, such as Irish workers along the B&O Railroad, Wheeling Germans in the Civil War era, Swiss immigration to West Virginia, and European Jews in Southern West Virginia. This work also covers Belgian glassworkers in West Virginia, black migration to Southern West Virginia, Italians in the Upper Kanawha Valley, Italian immigration to Marion County, Wheeling Iron and the Welsh, West Virginia and immigrant labor to 1920, Monongalia miners between the World Wars, and West Virginia rubber workers in Akron. Transnational West Virginia is the first volume in the West Virginia and Appalachia series, which is under the general editorship of West Virginia University Stuart and Joyce Robbins Chair of History Ronald L. Lewis. Kenneth Fones-Wolf, Associate Professor of History at WVU, also helped edit this collection of essays by ten distinguished scholars.
Working Class Radicals: The Socialist Party in West Virginia, 1898-1920 examines the rise and fall of organized socialism in West Virginia through an exploration of the demographics of membership, oral interview material gathered in the 1960s from party members, and the collapse of the party in the wake of the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek coal-mining strike of 1912. The first local branch of the West Virginia Socialist Party was established in Wheeling in 1901 and by 1914 several thousand West Virginians were dues-paying members of local branches. By 1910 local Socialists began to elect candidates to office and in 1912 more than 15,000 West Virginian voters cast their ballots for Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs. The progress that West Virginia socialists achieved on the electoral front was a reflection of the party’s strategy of increasing class-consciousness by working with existing unions to build the power of the labor movement. The party appealed to a fairly broad cross section of wage earners and its steady growth also owed much to the fact that many members of the middle class were attracted to the cause. Several factors combined to send the party into rapid decline, most importantly deep fissures between class and craft factions of the party and 1915 legislation making third party political participation difficult. Working Class Radicals offers insight into the various internal and external forces that doomed the party and serves as a cautionary tale to contemporary political leaders and organizers.