Participation Type


Session Title

The Cutting Edge: New Research on Coalfield Atrocities, Building a Class Action Case for Reparations

Session Abstract or Summary

This panel will explore new and diverse findings in coal industry history which are rapidly reshaping our view of the past 150 years of development of our people, land, resources, and state government for the benefit of outside interests and absentee corporations. Since the early 1920s the State Board of Education, in collaboration with coal industry public relations, has dusted off our tragic, beleaguered history until it shown like a golden horseshoe. That revised, pro industry version is still served up to Eighth Graders today as required West Virginia studies, minimizing industrial atrocities and criminal actions of the past. Meanwhile assertions of “Obama's War on Coal” continue to serve as a red herring, to shift attention away from the war on West Virginians relentlessly prosecuted by distant corporate officers and boardrooms over the past century and a half. From the forced sexual servitude of the Esau system and the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain to the 1968 explosion of No. 9 Mine at Farmington, we have uncovered new information with the potential of reshaping our sense of history. This session will explore three such explosive events with interpretive remarks by Wess Harris, Brandon Nida and Michael Kline. An informed discussion of how we should integrate this new information into our future actions, such as laying the academic groundwork for reparations by the coal industry, will be woven into the presentations. We all come to this discussion in different ships, but we're in the same boat now.

The panel will be moderated by Jack Wright.

Presentation #1 Title

The Memo: A Second Look at the Causes of the Number 9 Explosion of November 1968 in Mannington and a reopening of the case after nearly a half century

Presentation #1 Abstract or Summary

See session abstract for full description.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #1

Michael Kline, Ph.D. is an independent folklorist in Elkins WV, and 2015 winner of the Stetson Kennedy Vox Populi Award by the Oral History Association. He recently published “The Rented Girl” and “The Memo” in Truth Be Told. Kline has recorded hundreds of interviews across the Appalachian region, and with his wife, Carrie Kline, founded and co-directs Talking Across the Lines, LLC, offering a variety of documentary services and folk arts research.

Presentation #2 Title

Esau: Further Evidence of Forced Sexual Servitude in the Coal Fields

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #2

Wess Harris. With a Masters Degree in Sociology, Harris, a former coal miner, is the editor of two ground-breaking books, When Miners March and Truth Be Told, newly reviewed by Mark Hand in Counter Punch and adopted by Charleston's George Washington High School for their Eleventh Grade A.P. Capstone and other English classes. Named a West Virginia History Hero by the Culture Center in Charleston WV, Harris offers critical tours of the Center's “COAL” exhibit on request.

Presentation #3 Title

Updated Archaeology of the Battle of Blair Mountain, Current Assumptions and Interpretations

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #3

Brandon Nida. Ph.D. Brandon Nida is a native West Virginian, a graduate of Marshall University, and recently earned his doctorate from UC Berkeley. His focus of study is on the Battle of Blair Mountain, specifically the historical archaeology of this episode of the West Virginia Mine Wars. He has also been a core participant in efforts to preserve the battlefield, and is currently engaged in economic revitalization work in southern West Virginia.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #4

Moderator: Jack Wright. From the coal fields of Wise County, Virginia, Wright is a legend in the field of documentary arts, with a distinguished career in Communications at Ohio University and stunning accomplishments at Appalshop and Roadside Theater over the years. His landmark audio anthology, Music of Coal, is the new gold standard for regional, musical scholarship and presentation. He is well acquainted with the issues at hand and will leave time for audience participation.

This document is currently not available here.



The Memo: A Second Look at the Causes of the Number 9 Explosion of November 1968 in Mannington and a reopening of the case after nearly a half century

See session abstract for full description.