History

The Battle of Blair Mountain

After a generation of labor conflict in the southern coalfields of West Virginia, the largest labor insurrection in US History erupted in 1921. Ten-thousand coalminers fought for five days against a coal-operator backed army entrenched along 14 miles of steep ridges at Blair Mountain.

Both sides were armed with high-powered rifles, machine guns, and dynamite. The coal operators even had bombs to drop on the miners. The miners were about to break through the defenders’ lines when three Army regiments were called in to halt the fighting and save the coal-operator forces from being over-run.

After a lengthy trial, and a lag in unionism nationwide during the 1920s, the core leaders of the battle such as Bill Blizzard, emerged to organize the coalfields after given the legal right in 1933. Their lighting organization formed the base of the growing power of the United Mine Workers of America. In the mid-1930s, the UMWA was the driving force that formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Organizers from the mineworkers were also a major part of the creation of the United Auto Workers and United Steel Workers.

Many of the miners who were a part of the Mine Wars migrated to the industrial centers such as Detroit and Pittsburgh, and with them they brought their rock-hard Appalachian coalminer union solidarity with them. Blair Mountain stands at the center of the creation of American prosperity in the 20th century and to this day is still an active place of resistance and transformation.

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