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UMWA/mining history

A century after a Dec. 6, 1907, explosion took the lives of close to 500 mostly Italian and Polish miners, their lives have been memorialized in Monongah: The Tragic Story of the 1907 Monongah Mine Disaster, The Worst Industrial Accident in U.S. History by J. Davitt McAteer. The author draws on a wealth of experience as a former UMWA staff attorney, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health and long-time champion of mine safety to paint a portrait of the immigrant community that supplied the labor to toil in grossly unsafe mines and the judicial system that gave a pass to corporate negligence. The $32.95 hardcover book is available at

The Midnight MinersMidnight Miners
The Midnight Miners: A Mine Disaster at Hickory Hill Deep Mine #1: A Novel by first-time author Angela Sue Johnson is the fictional account of a harrowing attempt to survive the rubble of an underground mine disaster. It describes the saga of 13 miners on the midnight shift and the strength they draw from each other as they struggle for miles to reach the surface after a roof collapse. The $10.95 paperback is available by calling 800-AUTHORS ext. 5023, from the author directly at 740-645-1890 or online here.

Smith Mine DisasterSmith Mine
When 75 miners lost their lives during the Feb. 27, 1943, explosions in Smith Mine No. 3 near Bearcreek, Mt., Jeffrey McNeish lost 11 members of his family, including his great-grandfather. McNeish has just published the third volume of his Smith Mine Disaster Chronicles, entitled Quiet Courage, which presents a collection of local newspaper articles about the tragic events of that day and their aftermath. It is available for $34.99 by calling 406-446-3667 or online Earlier volumes in the series, including Sons of America, Brothers Underground ($42.49) and Long March Towards Tragedy ($37.49), are also available.

The Black Rock that Built America

Gerald McKerns, a retired steelworker from Reading, Pa., has written a book that tells about the struggles that immigrant coal miners from the hard coal region of Pennsylvania endured while trying to find their rightful place in America. The Black Rock that Built America describes how these workers toiled as they extracted anthracite coal from the earth to fuel the steel industry, railroad construction and factory operations among others, and triggered and pushed America's transformation from a once rural nation to the world's greatest industrial country. The 134-page book can be ordered for $20.99 on Barnes and Noble here.

When Miners March
In the early 1950's, William C. Blizzard, son of Bill Blizzard, the legendary UMWA leader in the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, serialized his account of West Virginia coal miners in an obscure labor publication. Half a century later, readers can relive the turbulent history of the region in When Miners March: The Story of Coal Miners in West Virginia (349 pages). From the earliest mining in Wheeling (1810) and the Kanawha Valley (1817) to the formation of the UMWA and the early struggles of John L. Lewis, this seminal work, now in book form, touches on the landmark events in West Virginia that shaped the laws and regulations affecting every American miner today. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of coal miners and the UMWA. Order it for $24 from the publisher, Appalachian Community Services, Gay, WV 25244 or from

When Miners March (audio)
Two years ago, When Miners March: The Story of Coal Miners in West Virginia was published, pulling together a 50-year-old serialized account of the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain written by William C. Blizzard, son of legendary UMWA leader Bill Blizzard. West Virginia actor and producer Ross Ballard has created an eight-CD audiobook of that work, available for $29 at A soundtrack CD is included, or available separately for $16.

Death in the Mines
Since 1870, the Keystone State's anthracite coalfields have claimed the lives of more than 30,000 men and boys. Through original journal and newspaper accounts, J. Stuart Richards' Death in the Mines: Disasters and Rescues in the Anthracite Coal Fields of Pennsylvania describes that region's most notorious mining accidents and recovery attempts from 1869 to 1943. The $19.99 paperback is available from History Press,

The Day the Earth Caved In
DaytheEarthIn 1981, when 12-year-old Todd Domboski fell through the earth in his grandmother's backyard in Centralia, Pa., he set off a media circus surrounding the nation's worst mine fire, pitting residents against corrupt and unresponsive federal officials. Joan Quigley, the granddaughter of Centralia miners, paints vivid portraits of the key players in the disaster in her investigation of individual rights, corporate privilege and governmental indifference to the powerless in The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy. The $16.00 paperback book is published by Random House and is available at It is also available as an ebook for $13.99.

Labor, Loyalty, Rebellion: Southwestern Illinois Coal Miners & World War I by Carl R. Weinberg
Labor, Loyalty, RebellionThe book uses the 1918 lynching of German-American coal miner Robert Prager as a starting point to challenge the conventional wisdom that workers of the era benefited from demonstrating loyalty to the nation. The first published study of wartime strikes in the region, the book examines a people torn between patriotism and class solidarity that spawned a rebellion against mine owners both during and after the war. The 201-page paperback is available from Southern Illinois University Press, P.O. Box 3697, Carbondale, IL 62902,

In Anthracite Roots: Generations of Coal Mining in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, former coal miner Dr. Joseph W. Leonard III recalls the unforgiving conditions that he and five generations of his forebears endured in the mines, and illustrates the conditions of thousands of Coal Belt families. The paperback is available for $16.99 from History Press, 18 Percy St., Charleston, SC 29403, 843-577-5971,


Rendezvous A Rendezvous with Shame revisits the Ludlow Massacre through the eyes of Patrick L. Donachy, whose father was summoned by UMWA organizer John Lawson to help miners fired upon by company goons. In great detail, the author describes the conditions and events leading up to the strike, and examines the massacre and its aftermath. The paperback is available for $13.00 plus $2.59 shipping and handling from The Inkwell, P.O. Box 966, Trinidad, Colo. 81082. It is also available online here.

Agents of ChangeAgents of Change: The Pioneering Role of the Miners of the Little Cities of Black Diamonds in the Nation's Labor Movement is a monograph surveying the labor history of the Hocking Valley of Ohio from the latter half of the 19th Century to the 1930s. Cheryl Blosser and John Winnenberg describe the conditions that gave rise to the Columbus founding of the UMWA. The publication is available for $20 plus $4.95 shipping from Little Cities of Black Diamonds Council at 740-394-3011 or

Milton RogovinHaving come of age in New York during the Great Depression, the photographer Milton Rogovin often made poverty the subject of his work. Milton Rogovin: The Mining Photographs includes more than 100 images of miners working in Appalachia, Europe, South Africa, Mexico and Cuba, photographed between 1962 and 1990. He called his archive of portraits showing miners at both work and home "the Family of Miners." The hardcover book is available for $60 in bookstores or through Getty Publications, 800-223-3431.

Labor History

Putting the World TogetherIn the pantheon of 20th Century labor leaders, few improved the lives of so many as United Auto Workers (UAW) President Walter Reuther. Putting the World Together, My Father Walter Reuther: The Liberal Warrior by his daughter, Elizabeth Reuther Dickmeyer, charts Reuther's remarkable career, from his early efforts in Detroit to organize the American automobile industry, to leader of the UAW, to a supporter of the merger between the AFL and the CIO, to civil rights activist. Along the way, Dickmeyer paints a very personal portrait of this leading champion of social justice. To get a signed copy, send a check or money order for $25 (including $5 shipping and handling) payable to LivingForce Publishing, P.O. Box 564, Lake Orion, WI 48361.

Living in our world

State of the Unions

State of UnionWritten by one of the few remaining labor reporters in the mainstream media, State of the Unions: How Labor Can Strengthen the Middle Class, Improve Our Economy and Regain Political Influence, describes the labor movement's strengths, weaknesses and pivotal importance for America's middle class. Philip Dine of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers insight into what happened to severely challenge organized labor in the current period, and what can be done to restore it to its role as the defender of working family values and economic well-being. Included is an overview of MSHA and the Sago tragedy. The $27.95 hardback is available from major bookstores and from The Union Shop Online.

Freedom in the Workplace?
Author Gertrude Ezorsky examines the illegal coercion against workers trying to organize unions, inadequate wages and the pressure on older and sick workers to stay in demanding jobs in order to be eligible for pensions. In discussing the lack of freedom in the American workplace, she touches on employment at will, outsourcing, the role of federal agencies and the distinction between closed, union and agency shops. The book is available for $12.95 (paper) and $39.95 (cloth) at

Dancing on Live Embers: Challenging Racism in Organizations by Tina Lopes and Barb Thomas investigates the ways racism, power and privilege operate in the ordinary moments of organizational life. Tina Lopes, a community activist, and Barb Thomas, co-author of Education for Changing Unions and Educating for a Change, hold up familiar workplace interactions for scrutiny and look for openings to create more equitable organizations. Through stories and exercises, the book offers concrete examples and strategies, relevant to all organizational settings, from the racial justice work that is practiced by a range of experienced activists. The 416-page paperback is available for $26.95 from Between the Lines at

bully of bentonvilleThe Bully of Bentonville: How the High Cost of Wal-Mart's Everyday Low Prices is Hurting America describes how the world's largest employer puts the squeeze on its workers, suppliers and competitors to reach the lowest cost, at any cost. Anthony Bianco, a senior writer for Business Week, reviews the successful efforts by this corporate pirate to drive down wages, skirt benefits, filter consumer tastes and force manufacturers to send American jobs overseas. The hardcover book is available in stores for $24.95.

Arkansas Coal Miners' Wives Cookbooks: A History Cookbook contains 275 recipes, plus pictures and text touching on the history of coal mining and coal miners. The book, which is dedicated to the United Mine Workers of America, is available for $19.95, including shipping and handling, from 1701 Ford Dr., Clarksville, AR 72830, 479-754-3808 or 479-754-2135,


unbroken circleThe Unbroken Circle: Songs of the West Virginia Coalfields is a collection of songs that document events in the West Virginia coalfields from the early 20th Century. Using guitar, banjo, dobro and vocals, Pittsburgh-based singer/songwriter Tom Breiding uses music to document such topics as the Buffalo Creek flood of 1972, the 1912 miners strike in Kanawha County and various events associated with the Mine Wars of 1921. You can get a copy of the cd directly from AmeriSon Productions, 208 Friar Ln., McMurray, Pa. 15317, or send the artist an email at

vanessa lively cdLet Me Rise, "For the Miners," a song that evocatively depicts the suffering of the friends and families of the victims of the Sago disaster is included in Let Me Rise, the debut release of singer/songwriter Vanessa Lively. Visit to check it out.

soldiers of solidaritySoldiers of Solidarity marks the ninth CD release by labor singer/rocker Mike Stout. Stout, a former member of the United Steelworkers, is a familiar voice to labor and alternative rock listeners in Western Pennsylvania and has performed at several UMWA events, including the Save the Coal Act rally in Washington in 2000.

His new release is available for $15 plus $1 S&H from Mike Stout, 107 E. Eighth Avenue, Homestead, PA 15120.

The Cry of the Miner is an international award-winning poem set to music. A CD of the recording is available for $10 from Patricia Rain Sudworth, 150 Neville St., Dominion, N.S. B1G 1P6, Canada, 902-849-3709.

Music of Coal

Music of Coal: Mining Songs from the Appalachian Coalfields, is a two-CD set containing 48 songs addressing various aspects of coal mining history and culture, including black lung, union organizing, environmental impacts and the contribution of coal to the national economy. The CDs are accompanied by a book including liner notes and historical photographs.

music of coal"This has been a collaborative effort involving many people in the Wise County area as well as noted experts across the country," said Paul Kuczko, Director of the Lonesome Pine Office on Youth in Big Stone Gap, Va., and executive producer of the CD project. "We've assembled more than two hours of music that truly gives the flavor of our coal mining heritage."

According to Jack Wright, who produced the CDs and wrote the liner notes, the musical collection is a hybrid of old and new song, some previously recorded, others produced specifically for this project. "We chose some songs that came out previously on independent labels and may not have been well known, but are vital in telling original stories from the heart of the coalfields," Wright said. "In addition, we have well established artists represented here, like Ralph Stanley, Dwight Yoakum, Natalie Merchant, Tom T. Hall, Blue Highway and the Carter Family."

The project made extensive use of local talent, including Maggard Studio in Big Stone Gap, where Alan Maggard served as associate producer and his father Charlie recorded a song chronicling the 1934 mine explosion at the Derby mine. Other local performers include Molly Slemp of Norton, Ron Short of Big Stone Gap, Jim Stanley of Derby and the Rev. Joe Freeman, a former Wise County resident.

The Music of Coal project began in 2005 with the formation of an advisory group of representatives from around the region. Funding was provided by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Wise County Sesquicentennial Commission. The work is dedicated to Archie Green, a noted author and expert on coal mining music, who served as an advisor to the project.

The CD set and book can be purchased for $35 at the Lonesome Pine Office on Youth at 219 Wood Ave. E., Big Stone Gap, VA 24219, ordered online at or by calling the office at 276-523-5064, ext. 10.

Classic Labor Songs

Classic Labor Songs The Smithsonian Institution's Folkways label has released Classic Labor Songs, a collection of 27 inspiring songs from Paul Robeson, Bobbie McGee, Pete Seeger, the Almanac Singers, Joe Glazer, John Handcox, Mike Seeger, Peggy Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Utah Phillips, Florence Reese, Joe Uehlein, New Harmony Sisterhood Band, Hazel Dickens, Larry Penn, Tom Juravich, Eddie Starr, Kenny Winfree, John O'Connor, Anne Feeney, Elaine Purkey, Jon Fromer and Baldemar Velasquez. An included booklet provides information on both the songs and the singers. The CD is available in limited quantities for $10 from the Labor Heritage Foundation at

Coal Digging Blues

coal diggingCoal Digging Blues: Songs of West Virginia Miners brings together 19 field recordings made in 1940 by folklorist George Korson and drawn from the West Virginia University Sound Archives Series. The singers, none of whom were professional musicians, provided selections that sampled a number of styles, including blues, country and gospel. The CD is available for $16 at or by phone at 866-988-7737.

Henry Russell's Last Words

henry russellHenry Russell was one of 111 men who perished in 1927 after an explosion ripped through the Federal No. 3 Mine in Everettville, W.Va. In his last moments, he used a piece of coal to write parting messages to his family. Songwriter Diana Jones has put many of Russell's words to music. You can listen to the song at

Altar of the Bottom Line

Labor professor, troubadour and UMWA Convention performer Tom Juravich will soon be releasing his new CD entitled Altar of the Bottom Line. The album, sponsored by the UMWA, features six original songs about 12-hour days, plant shut-downs, service sector work and the struggles of immigrant workers, including Crossroad, about a miner facing layoff as his company opens a nonunion mine. Also included are seven other songs by some of the best labor songwriters around. Keep your eyes open for this release at your favorite music retailer or at

Rolling the union on

The celebratory mood that marked April's 53rd Consecutive Constitutional Convention in Las Vegas was greatly enhanced by the performances of two of the labor movement's most eloquent musicians.

JuravichTom Juravich led his hard-driving band in rousing renditions of new compositions and labor standards, both old and new. He got his start as a performer singing for workers and their unions on picket lines, at rallies and in meeting halls. Now, 20 years since the release of his first album, he is one of the leading singer/songwriters whose music remains firmly rooted in the labor movement. A performer heard on the soundtrack of the UMWA film Out of Darkness, he "captures the drama of our history and brings it forward with a vitality and vision that is inspiring to all of us," said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer and former UMWA President Rich Trumka. Tom Juravich has released two other albums as well, including A World To Win and Rising Again.

Juravich, who is Director of the Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, is the author of Chaos on the Shop Floor, Commonwealth of Toil, and Ravenswood: The Steelworker's Victory and the Revival of American Labor, and numerous other publications about work and labor. His CDs are available at

Anne FeeneyAnne Feeney, the granddaughter of a UMWA organizer, also boosted the theme of solidarity during the convention by performing music that she says is designed to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Based in Pittsburgh, Feeney draws on Irish, bluegrass, traditional, labor, pop, folk, contemporary and original material.

Feeney has played at thousands of rallies, picket lines and demonstrations over the years, including the WTO demonstrations in Seattle, Solidarity Day in Washington, D.C. and for 1.5 million at the April 25, 2004, March for Women's Lives. Her releases include Union Maid and Have You Been to Jail for Justice?, also the name of a song featured on recordings by Peter, Paul and Mary.
Anne Feeney's CDs are available


Mother Jones

Mother JonesFilm producers Rosemary Feurer and Laura Vazquez have put together, a 23-minute documentary about the legendary labor leader and UMWA organizer. The DVD is being offered as part of an effort to raise funds to produce Remember Virden, which will examine the bloody mine wars that took place in the Illinois coalfields in the last two years of the 19th Century. The Mother Jones film is available for $10 from Rosemary Feurer, Northern Illinois University, 630 Joanne Lane, DeKalb, IL. For more information on the Virden film, visit

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