Written by Jason Keeling on April 7, 2009
We’re taught from a young age the importance of history. By dissecting the past, we discover a greater understanding of where society has been and where society is going. Every country, state and community chooses to remember events, people, and circumstances that have influenced its identity.
In West Virginia, the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain represents a time when workers were emboldened to overcome significant hardships, by marching for the right to unionize, earn a living wage and establish safe working conditions. The battle between the miners and coal company agents ended after U.S. troops intervened, but the fight itself was highly symbolic of the need to balance the interests of labor and corporations. Ultimately, reforms were made.
Blair Mountain was added to the National Register of Historic Places last month, after years of collective effort seeking the designation. Much of the 10-mile tract is currently owned by interests that practice mountaintop removal coal mining.
Now, after the fact, the state Division of Culture and History’s director has requested Blair Mountain be removed from the National Register due to a loophole relating to landowner preferences.
Today at HuffingtonPost.com, author Jeff Biggers discusses the original battle’s significance and comments on the current debate over the mountain’s future as it relates to strip-mining:
Blair Mountain represents an attitude that is as relevant today as it was in 1921; that the long-term jobs and safety and health of coal miners and coal mining communities must be placed above the profit interests of outside coal companies.
Readers, what do you think, does Blair Mountain represent something of importance to West Virginia, or should it be blasted into the past for the seams of coal beneath?