Stories from Blair Mountain

Beginning late winter/early spring 2011, Fire in the Mountains will focus upon first-hand accounts from men and women that have grown up in the shadow of Blair Mountain – the site of the largest open class war in U.S. history, which is currently being strip mined despite its historical importance.  Stay tuned for transcripts, audio, video, and artwork featuring the people involved in the efforts to save Blair Mountain, and their stories of their familes’ friends, relatives, and neighbors that fought and organized in that historic rebellion.

Blair Mountain in Logan County, West Virginia, was the site of the largest open class war in U.S. history. In 1921, after a generation of violent suppression and exploitation of the people in the southern coalfields of WV, 15,000 coal miners rebelled in an attempt to overthrow the control of coal barons.

They met the anti-union forces of the coal-operator army on Blair Mountain and the surrounding ridges. The battlefront was roughly 15 miles long, and more than one million rounds were estimated to have been fired over the course of the five day battle.  Both sides were heavily armed with machine guns, high powered rifles, and explosives. The anti-union forces even employed airplanes for reconnaissance as well as for dropping homemade bombs on the miners.

With the battle raging in the hills and hollows around Blair Mountain, federal troops were called in and were able to peacefully stop the conflict without a shot fired. The miners dispersed and went back to their homes, and the news reporters packed up their cameras and returned to their editors. The battle received above the fold coverage in major newspapers of the day, including the New York Times. But soon, the battle faded into obscurity, and over time has been largely forgotten.

So today, although this battle was the largest insurrection after the Civil War, it is not taught in our schools and most Americans and even West Virginians have never heard about it. Even worse, the battlefield is severely threatened by encroaching surface mining operations, and the fate of this remarkable place is uncertain.  Attempts have been made over the last 20 years to get the site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more on this struggle, please visit Friends of Blair Mountain for a full description of the ongoing work to save Blair Mountain.

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