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West Virginia Mine Wars Museum


Yesterday was so-called Giving Tuesday. So I want to ask you all a favor. Over the last 6 plus years, I have provided you with a lot of free labor history and labor coverage that you don’t get too many other places, even on the left internet. The number of progressive blogs with anyone dedicated to the labor movement was always very low and it’s not as if that has changed much with the transition from the blogosphere to more official news sites. Issues of workplace justice remain arguably the most undercovered issue on the left.

Given all of this, I want to ask you to become a member of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum. This little museum in Matewan, West Virginia, at the site of the legendary 1920 shootout that John Sayles made into his film (you can see actual bullets from this event still lodged in the building’s back wall) not only does a great job with very little funding, but is also a critical source of information about coal’s history in West Virginia. As readers of this blog know well, the West Virginia population has come under the spell of extremist right-wing elements, partly because of coal’s decline and the economic desperation that the disappearance of the last good jobs in this very poor state. While the coal industry’s influence over the state is slowly declining, people such as the vile Don Blankenship, mass murderer of workers, engage in a state-wide propaganda campaign about coal that includes sending mailers to West Virginia residents calling himself a political prisoner. The disappearance of coal jobs has meant the effective end of the United Mine Workers of America, which if nothing else long served as a reminder to the people of West Virginia of the human cost of coal.

The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum serves as a critical reminder of this cost. Simply presenting this information today is an act of resistance. Visitors can find out about the death of coal miners, the resistance miners once gave coal companies that culminated in the Battle of Blair Mountain, and the long-term exploitation of the West Virginia population by this industry. I know or have corresponded with some of the historians and activists behind this museum. The museum does not talk about the impact of mountaintop removal, for that is too touchy a subject, but I can assure you they are well aware of the horrors of this method of mining. I have also been told that Don Blankenship knows about this museum and is not happy that it exists. Moreover, it’s just a good museum. Most local museums are underfunded but also don’t really try very hard to create a good visitor experience. It’s just a bunch of old stuff. The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum is indeed underfunded, but with their resources, they have put together a really high-quality museum that includes video displays, as well as the objects you might expect. Real funding would allow the museum to not only become financially stable but also open for more of the year.

I want you to help make that happen. This is very inexpensive. You can give as little as $3.50 a month and become a member, although they ask for $10 as a preferred member rate. Or you can give a one-time donation. Even if you never make it to Matewan, you are doing a very good thing here. I don’t think I need to make the argument in the Trump era why we need to remember our histories of resistance. Nowhere is that more important than in the places where Trumpism is most powerful.

Plus I know the vast majority of LGM readers can afford to help this museum out. So do it.

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