It is important to teach about the Mine Wars in West Virginia schools because, as West Virginians, we must not forget our heritage and history, cannot forget the lives lost during the Mine Wars, and we must inspire our youth to protest oppression.
The West Virginia Mine Wars period was a time in history when a group of coal miners protested the conditions in mines. After doing so, many were evicted from their homes by the mine guards. Afterward, evicted miners formed a tent colony and had to work together to survive in the wilderness. Many social groups had to work together, including African Americans, immigrants, and whites. Deadly battles were fought to stop what miners considered unjust mine practices.
We must not forget that.
The West Virginia Mine Wars are an important part of our history partly because some of our family members may have been a part of it. Your grandparents may have played a role in the Mine Wars. They may have told you stories of the Mine Wars or about working in the mines. It is a part of who we are. We must not forget the Mine Wars.
We must not keep pretending it didn’t happen. West Virginia is a leader in worker’s rights. We inspired other states to take up the struggle to end injustice.
But it was a struggle.
Miners had to survive in the wilderness and evade the Baldwin-Felts in fear of their lives. They fought for the right to organize. They were forced to work together regardless of race, nationality, or religion to survive. We must not forget the struggle.
The mine guard system was a form of control over the every aspect of miners’ lives, and the consequences for disobeying were sometimes lethal. Whenever a miner went on strike or refused to follow certain rules, they often were kicked out of their homes. When someone from a workers’ union visited, they were sometimes scared out by men with guns. However it was ignored by the federal government. Why? Because it was hidden from them. The corrupt mines were hidden in remote parts of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Also, West Virginia was represented by corrupt officials such as United States Senators Clarence W. Watson and William E. Chilton, who were also coal operators. Coal WAS the government in West Virginia.
Tensions rose, resulting in the Battle of Blair Mountain, a large mobilization of union forces. When the federal government found out what was happening, the U.S. military sent in biplanes and were ready to strike if needed. Soon, the fighting miners looked up and saw planes dropping bombs. They laid down their weapons and surrendered. They could not fight the government that many had fought for in the first world war.
The history of the West Virginia Mine Wars was removed from our state’s curriculum. An important chapter of our state and national story has been ripped from the pages of history. If we forget the past, then history could repeat itself. We must not let that happen. We must prepare the future.
Teach the Mine Wars in schools so that we don’t let history repeat itself. If we do not teach this dark period of our history, we are covering up a lot of our story just to make the past government look good and it is affecting our future. If we want all of the progress we made in the Mine Wars to stay, we must remember what happens when the elite take over the government. We also cannot forget the sacrifices that were made in this struggle. Do not give in.
It is important to teach the Mine Wars in West Virginia because we cannot forget our heritage and history, cannot forget the lives lost in the Mine Wars, and we must inspire others to protest oppression.