Even the Heavens Weep


A six part documentary done by the UMWA in the 1970s talking about Blair Mountain.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm  Comments Off on Even the Heavens Weep  
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Mother Jones

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones (August 1, 1837 – November 30, 1930), born in Cork, Ireland, was a prominent American labor and community organizer, who helped co-ordinate major strikes and co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World. She worked as a teacher and dressmaker but after her husband and four children all died of yellow fever and her workshop was destroyed in a fire in 1871 she began working as an organizer for the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union.

She was a very effective speaker, punctuating her speeches with stories, audience participation, humour and dramatic stunts. From 1897 (when she was 60) she was known as Mother Jones and in 1902 she was called “the most dangerous woman in America” for her success in organizing mine workers and their families against the mine owners.

In 1913, during the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike in West Virginia, Mother Jones was charged and kept under house arrest in the nearby town of Pratt and subsequently convicted with other union organizers of conspiring to commit murder, after organizing another children’s march. Her arrest raised an uproar and she was soon released from prison, after which, upon motion of Indiana Senator John Worth Kern, the United States Senate ordered an investigation into the conditions in the local coal mines.

At a rally on August 7, 1921 Mary Harris “Mother” Jones called on the miners not to march into Logan and Mingo counties and set up the union by force. Accused by some of losing her nerve, she rightly feared a bloodbath in a battle between lightly armed union forces and the more heavily armed deputies from Logan County. Many miners said that she was losing her nerves and continued on the March. When the battle was waging she supported the miner’s cause.

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 5:27 pm  Comments Off on Mother Jones  
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Bill Blizzard

William H. “Bill” Blizzard (September 19, 1892 – 1958) was a union organizer. He was considered the overall commander of the miners’ army during the Battle of Blair Mountain, though it should be noted that many of the miners acted in their own bands verses being a solid military organization.

Bill Blizzard was the son of Timothy Blizzard and activist Sarah Rebecca ‘‘Mother’’ Blizzard. Born in the Cabin Creek district of Kanawha County, Blizzard first became involved with the United Mine Workers of America during the bloody Paint Creek-Cabin Creek strike of 1912–13 (This is often considered the first major war against the coal operators in WV).

Bill Blizzard was president of District 17 of the United Mine Workers and became a new folk hero to the miners after the death of Sid Hatfield. Blizzard is most remembered for his role in the Battle of Blair Mountain, leading the miners against the forces of Logan County sheriff Don Chafin. While District 17 President Keeney and Secretary-treasurer Mooney managed events behind the scenes, Blizzard led the miners in the front lines of the fighting at Blair Mountain.

After the Battle of Blair Mountain, Blizzard was tried at Charles Town for treason and murder, defended by T. C. Townsend and Harold Houston, and found not guilty on both charges. However, the District 17 officials had lost favor with UMWA President John L. Lewis, and in 1924 Keeney and Mooney were forced to retire. Blizzard remained in the union but lost much of his influence.

Blizzard returned to prominence in 1931 when he led the UMWA’s struggle against Keeney’s West Virginia Mine Workers Union. In 1945, Blizzard was appointed president of District 17 and served for 10 years. Blizzard died of cancer July 31, 1958, reportedly having come to regret his long association with the Lewis forces inside the UMWA.

Published in: on April 24, 2011 at 5:03 pm  Comments Off on Bill Blizzard  
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UMWA Video on the Battle

Published in: on March 18, 2011 at 11:11 pm  Comments Off on UMWA Video on the Battle  
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