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Diversity in the UMWA

Diversity in the UMWA

black minersAfrican American coal miners have a proud history in the UMWA. Among the elected delegates to the founding UMWA convention were at least five African American miners. By 1900 approximately 20,000 black miners had joined the union, representing about 20% of UMWA membership.

One of the best known African American UMWA members was Richard L. Davis, who mined coal in West Virginia and Ohio. A delegate to the founding convention in 1890, Davis later served as a UMWA organizer in Alabama, Ohio and West Virginia, and was twice elected to the UMWA National Executive Board.

celebrate freedomDavis was a tireless advocate of the rights of all working people. In a letter to the United Mine Workers Journal in 1898, urging black and white workers to set aside their racial intolerance, Davis wrote:

"I would advise that we organize against corporate greed, organize against the fellow who through trickery and corrupt legislation, seeks to live and grow fat from the sweat and blood of his fellow man. It is these human parasites that we should strive to exterminate, not by blood or bullets, but by the ballot..."

To this day, UMWA members strive to live up to the example set for them by Richard Davis. UMWA members are proud to have added their voices to those of their brothers and sisters in the South African National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to call for the end of apartheid and the beginning of democracy in South Africa.

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