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The fight for Blair Mountain continues…

May 9, 2011


Many folks are gearing up for the June 4-11 March on Blair Mountain. The excerpt below came down the wire from organizers, along with this awesome new print from Providence-based artist Noel’le Longhaul (see a full view after the cut). People interested in attending the five-day march, or just attending the rally and day of action after the march, can find significant details here.

Below is from a speech by Denise Giardina, author of Storming Heaven:
“Ninety years ago, in 1921, thousands of coal miners marched from Marmet, West Virginia to Blair Mountain in Logan County. They were West Virginians from a variety of backgrounds, standing up against coal companies for their freedom and basic human rights. They tied red bandannas around their necks and marched to throw out local politicians who had aligned themselves with coal companies. They marched because they were dying from unsafe working conditions, because they were being cheated out of their rightful pay. They marched because they were being denied the right to join a union, because their families were living in terrible conditions and dying from ill health, because coal company thugs subjected them to violence, because the companies and state government were taking away their basic civil liberties.”

“When these brave miners reached Blair Mountain, they found coal company forces and state police arrayed against them with rifles and machine guns. The standoff lasted for several days and ended when federal troops with not only machine guns, but also poison gas, and airplanes with bombs, arrived on the scene. The Battle of Blair Mountain was one of the most stirring and important events in labour history in the United States. For several days it commanded the top headlines in newspapers such as the New York Times. The immediate aftermath was the crushing of the United Mine Workers throughout the region for the next twelve years, but with the election of Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s, the hope of Blair Mountain was realized. The United Mine Workers of America began the long process of improving the lot of American coal miners.”

“How far we have fallen in the last thirty years! Coal companies like Massey (now Alpha Energy) have stripped union protection from miners who are dying in devastating accidents. Because of coal company intimidation, basic civil liberties like freedom of assembly are infringed. Coalfield residents are again dying because of the poisoning of the environment from valley fills, slurry injections, and coal ash. West Virginia politicians continue in the pockets of the coal companies, where they attempt to deprive their citizens of their state of even the basic protections that the fed government provides. And mountains across the region are being destroyed. Even Blair Mountain, that most important peak in West Virginia’s history, is not safe.”

print by Noel(le) Longhaul

“Our ancestors who marched on Blair Mountain understood some things that we would like to remind our fellow West Virginians, Appalachians and Americans about. The coal miners who marched on Blair Mountain understood that they were not friends of coal. These coal miners deeply understood that the West Virginia coal operators and the international coal industry were not their friends. They understood that they must stand against coal companies.
We are here to announce a new march on Blair Mountain in early June, and we invite our fellow citizens to join us. We call for protection for Blair Mountain from mountaintop removal; indeed, an end to all mountaintop removal. We call for protection of our streams and our drinking water. We call for our politicians to protect people and the environment. We call for coal to be deep mined by union coal miners who are protected by their union and by strong government regulatory agencies. We call for West Virginia to become once again the Mountain State, to proclaim the beauty of the summits of the West Virginia hills and to insist that mountaineers are always free. We call for Americans to stand up again for our freedoms and our land, and against those corporations who would destroy both.”

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5 comments on “The fight for Blair Mountain continues…”

Did you know the term Red Neck came from the fact that those who marched used red bandanas about their necks as a recognition/solidarity emblem. That term really shouldn’t be derogatory but rather a indicator of those that stand against tyranny. Ahhhh, but what ‘should be’ and ‘what is’.
Oh, BTW you may also like to visit the WIKI page for Nitro, WV and read a bit about that town’s founding. YIKES! Talk about waste.
Stay on groovin’ safari,

thank you for this insight and information on Blair Mountain and people of rural Appalachia. I think that money-poor or blue collar people have been pitted against each other enough. It is sad that industry is willing to take the mountain apart , destroying it and a way of life, just as a mater of course.
Now is the time, as a mature society, to grow into valuing the experience and knowledge of people who love the mountains/woods as part of their “home places” and support the work they do. this march is one way of doing that
thank you

Great movement! This is the one thing students should learn about how the world works. It’s like the mountain version of, “Occupy Wall Street”! Best of wishes to all of you, because history is repeating itself in the worst way possible, we can’t let it! I hiked the Appalachians for three months and they were the three most beautiful months of my life… We can’t let technology and greed destroy our world. Fight on!

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