Books about coal

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Non-Fiction

Combating Coal

  • The Buffalo Creek Disaster: How the Survivors of One of the Worst Disasters in Coal-Mining History Brought Suit Against the Coal Company - and Won, Gerald M. Stern, Vintage Press (2008) [1]
    • One Saturday morning in February 1972, an impoundment dam owned by the Pittston Coal Company burst, sending a 130 million gallon, 25 foot tidal wave of water, sludge, and debris crashing into southern West Virginia's Buffalo Creek hollow. It was one of the deadliest floods in U.S. history. 125 people were killed instantly, more than 1,000 were injured, and over 4,000 were suddenly homeless. Instead of accepting the small settlements offered by the coal company's insurance offices, a few hundred of the survivors banded together to sue. This is the story of their triumph over incredible odds and corporate irresponsibility, as told by Gerald M. Stern, who as a young lawyer and took on the case and won.
  • Mountain Justice: Homegrown Resistance to Mountaintop Removal, for the Future of Us All, Tricia Shapiro, AK Press (2010) [2]
    • "This on-the-ground, insider report of a grassroots effort to end mountaintop removal in Appalachia is a fascinating account of why building solidarity across geographic, age, class, and philosophical lines in such struggles is so important but so hard. Shapiro allows the participants in this battle to speak for themselves about their motivations, hopes, and fears. And it is from these voices that we come to understand that their fight is our fight too."—Steve Fisher, editor, Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change
  • The Scotia Widows: Inside Their Lawsuit Against Big Daddy Coal, Gerald Stern, Random House (2008) [3]
    • On March 9, 1976, a violent explosion, fueled by high concentrations of methane gas and coal dust, ripped through the Scotia mine in the heart of Eastern Kentucky coal country. The blast killed fifteen miners who were working nearly three and a half miles underground; two days later, a second explosion took the lives of eleven rescue workers. For the miners’ surviving family members, the loss of their husbands, fathers, and sons was only the beginning of their nightmare.
    • In The Scotia Widows, Gerald M. Stern, the groundbreaking litigator and acclaimed author of The Buffalo Creek Disaster, recounts the epic four-year legal struggle waged by the widows in the aftermath of the disaster. Stern shares a story of loss, scandal, and perseverance–and the plaintiffs’ fight for justice against the titanic forces of “Big Daddy Coal.”
    • Confronted at nearly every turn by a hostile judge and the scorched-earth defense of the Scotia mine’s owners, family members also withstood the opprobrium of some of their neighbors, most of whom relied on coal mining for their livelihoods. Meanwhile, Stern, representing the widows of the disaster on contingency, amassed huge bills and encountered a litany of formidable obstacles. The Eastern Kentucky trial judge withheld disclosure of his own personal financial interest in coal mining, and a popular pro-coal former Kentucky governor served as the lead defense counsel. The judge also suppressed as evidence the federal mine study that pointed to numerous safety violations at the Scotia mine: In a rush to produce more coal, necessary ventilation had been short-circuited, miners had not been trained in the use of self-rescue equipment, and ventilation inspections had not been made. Moreover, Scotia did not even have a trained rescue team. Ultimately, the Scotia widows’ ordeal helped to inspire the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, which changed safety regulations for coal mines throughout the country. The Scotia Widows portrays in gripping detail young women deciding to pursue a landmark legal campaign against powerful corporate interests and the judge who protected them. It is a critically important and timeless story of ordinary people who took a stand and refused to give up hope for justice.
  • Moving Mountains, Penny Loeb, University Press of Kentucky (2007) [4]
    • Moving Mountains recounts the struggle of Trish Bragg and other ordinary West Virginias for fair treatment by the coal companies that dominate the local economies. The result is an account of the human and environmental costs of coal extraction, and the inspirational grassroots crusade to mitigate those costs.
  • To Save the Land and the People: A History of Opposition to Coal Mining in Appalachia, Chad Montrie, University of North Carolina Press (2002) [5]
    • Surface coal mining has had a dramatic impact on the Appalachian economy and ecology since World War II, exacerbating the region's chronic unemployment and destroying much of its natural environment. Here, Chad Montrie examines the twentieth-century movement to outlaw surface mining in Appalachia, tracing popular opposition to the industry from its inception through the growth of a militant movement that engaged in acts of civil disobedience and industrial sabotage. Both comprehensive and comparative, To Save the Land and People chronicles the story of surface mining opposition in the whole region, from Pennsylvania to Alabama.
    • Though many accounts of environmental activism focus on middle-class suburbanites and emphasize national events, the campaign to abolish strip mining was primarily a movement of farmers and working people, originating at the local and state levels. Its history underscores the significant role of common people and grassroots efforts in the American environmental movement. This book also contributes to a long-running debate about American values by revealing how veneration for small, private properties has shaped the political consciousness of strip mining opponents.
  • Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change, Stephen Fisher, Temple University Press (1993) [6]

Disasters

  • No.9: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster, Bonnie E. Stewart, West Virginia University Press (2011) [7]
    • Ninety-nine men entered the cold, dark tunnels of the Consolidation Coal Company’s No.9 Mine in Farmington, West Virginia, on November 20, 1968. Some were worried about the condition of the mine. It had too much coal dust, too much methane gas. They knew that either one could cause an explosion. What they did not know was that someone had intentionally disabled a safety alarm on one of the mine’s ventilation fans. That was a death sentence for most of the crew. The fan failed that morning, but the alarm did not sound. The lack of fresh air allowed methane gas to build up in the tunnels. A few moments before 5:30 a.m., the No.9 blew up. Some men died where they stood. Others lived but suffocated in the toxic fumes that filled the mine. Only 21 men escaped from the mountain. No.9: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster explains how such a thing could happen—how the coal company and federal and state officials failed to protect the 78 men who died in the mountain. Based on public records and interviews with those who worked in the mine, No.9 describes the conditions underground before and after the disaster and the legal struggles of the miners’ widows to gain justice and promote coal mine safety legislation.

Economics, Environment, Politics, and Technology

  • Blackout: Coal, Climate, and the Last Energy Crisis, Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Press (2009) [8]
    • Coal fuels about fifty percent of US electricity production and provides a quarter of the country’s total energy. China and India’s ferocious economic growth is based on coal-generated electricity.
    • Coal currently looks like a solution to many of our fast-growing energy problems. However, while coal advocates are urging full steam ahead, increasing reliance on the dirtiest of all fossil fuels has crucial implications for climate science, energy policy, the world economy, and geopolitics.
    • Drawbacks to a coal-based energy strategy include: scarcity (new studies prove that the peak of usable coal production may actually be less than two decades away), cost (the quality of produced coal is declining, while the expense of transport is rising, leading to spiralling costs and potential shortages), and climate impacts (our ability to deal with the historic challenge of climate change may hinge on reducing our coal consumption in future years).
    • Blackout goes to the heart of the tough energy questions that will dominate every sphere of public policy throughout the first half of this century, and it is a must-read for planners, educators, and anyone concerned about energy consumption, peak oil, and climate change.
  • Coal Trains: The History of Railroading and Coal in the United States, Brian Solomon and Patrick Yough, Voyager Press (2009) [9]
    • From the first, U.S. railroads have carried coal from mines to docks, steel mills, and power plants across the country. In this authoritative book spanning the whole of that history, from the mid-nineteenth century to present, noted rail author Brian Solomon explores the railroads and hardware that have transported the fossil fuels that made America work. Brilliant period and contemporary photographs convey the drama of the enterprise: the very long—and very heavy—trains powering up mountain grades and thundering across barren prairies.
    • At sites from the eastern and western U.S., past and present, readers see giant double-headed Norfolk and Western steam locomotives moving Appalachian coal in Virginia; modern CSX diesels dragging unit coal trains over the well-groomed former Chesapeake & Ohio main line; BNSF’s SD70MACs with more than 100 hoppers in tow; Rio Grande locomotives snaking through the Rocky Mountains; and coal trains working full-throttle up Colorado’s Tennessee Pass, cresting the Continental Divide at 10,000 feet above sea level. Taking up topics ranging from the colorful but now-defunct “anthracite roads” of eastern Pennsylvania to today’s AC-traction diesels that work Wyoming’s thriving Powder River Basin, Solomon reveals how for 150 years the unique demands of coal—and America’s demand for coal—have prompted new railroad technologies.
  • Matewan Before the Massacre: Politics, Coal, and the Roots of Conflict in a West Virginia Mining Community, Rebecca J. Bailey, West Virginia University Press (2008) [10]
    • On May 19, 1920, gunshots rang through the streets of Matewan, West Virginia, in an event soon known as the "Matewan Massacre." Most historians of West Virginia and Appalachia see this event as the beginning of a long series of events known as the second mine wars. But was it instead the culmination of an even longer series of events that unfolded in Mingo County, dating back at least to the Civil War?
  • Producing Liquid Fuels From Coal: Prospects and Policy Issues, James T. Bartis, Frank A. Camm, and David S. Oritz, RAND Corporation (2008) [11]
    • Large U.S. coal reserves and viable technology make promising a domestic industry producing liquid fuels from coal. Weighing benefits, costs, and environmental issues, a productive and robust U.S. strategy is to promote a limited amount of early commercial experience in coal-to-liquids production and to prepare the foundation for managing associated greenhouse-gas emissions, both in a way that reduces uncertainties and builds future capabilities.
  • Scientists and Swindlers: Consulting on Coal and Oil in America (1820-1890), Paul Lucier, Johns Hopkins University Press (2008) [12]
    • In this impressively researched and highly original work, Paul Lucier explains how science became an integral part of American technology and industry in the nineteenth century. Scientists and Swindlers introduces us to a new service of professionals: the consulting scientists. Lucier follows these entrepreneurial men of science on their wide-ranging commercial engagements from the shores of Nova Scotia to the coast of California and shows how their innovative work fueled the rapid growth of the American coal and oil industries and the rise of American geology and chemistry. Along the way, he explores the decisive battles over expertise and authority, the high-stakes court cases over patenting research, the intriguing and often humorous exploits of swindlers, and the profound ethical challenges of doing science for money.
    • Starting with the small surveying businesses of the 1830s and reaching to the origins of applied science in the 1880s, Lucier recounts the complex and curious relations that evolved as geologists, chemists, capitalists, and politicians worked to establish scientific research as a legitimate, regularly compensated, and respected enterprise. This sweeping narrative enriches our understanding of how the rocks beneath our feet became invaluable resources for science, technology, and industry.
  • Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future, Jeff Goodell, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Press (2007) [13]
    • Long dismissed as a relic of a bygone era, coal is back -- with a vengence. Coal is one of the nation's biggest and most influential industries -- Big Coal provides more than half the electricity consumed by Americans today -- and its dominance is growing, driven by rising oil prices and calls for energy independence. Is coal the solution to America's energy problems?
    • On close examination, the glowing promise of coal quickly turns to ash. Coal mining remains a deadly and environmentally destructive industry. Nearly forty percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year comes from coal-fired power plants. In the last two decades, air pollution from coal plants has killed more than half a million Americans. In this eye-opening call to action, Goodell explains the costs and consequences of America's addiction to coal and discusses how we can kick the habit.
  • Boiling Point: How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists, and Activists Have Fueled a Climate Crisis - And What We Can Do to Avert Disaster, Ross Gelbspan, Basic Books (2007) [14]
    • Gelbspan, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, offers no less than a call to arms in this treatise on how global warming is a threat and how it can be avoided. Gelbspan expands the argument about global warming: not only is the current U.S. administration to blame, but journalists and activists are as well. Journalists, he says, are culpable because they are minimizing the story; activists, while well-meaning, are so busy trying to form alliances and make compromises that they lose sight of a problem that Gelbspan believes could ultimately compromise the planet. Gelbspan writes clearly, and he argues that Republican members of Congress have latched onto theories of the few scientists who don't believe that global warming is a major problem. He lays out three of the plans being discussed to attack the problem, as well as one of his own (which focuses on changing energy subsidies from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, funding the transfer of renewable energy sources to developing countries and greatly tightening emission standards). But at times, he adopts an apocalyptic tone—the first sentence of his first chapter contains the words, "global climate change is threatening to spiral out of control"—and that may limit this work to true believers.
  • Coal Energy Systems, Bruce G. Miller, Academic Press (2005) [15]
    • Coal is currently a major energy source in the United States as well as throughout the world, especially among many developing countries, and will continue to be so for many years. Fossil fuels will continue to be the dominant energy source for fueling the United States economy, with coal playing a major role for decades. Coal provides stability in price and availability, will continue to be a major source of electricity generation, will be the major source of hydrogen for the coming hydrogen economy, and has the potential to become an important source of liquid fuels. Conservation and renewable/sustainable energy are important in the overall energy picture, but will play a lesser role in helping us satisfy our energy demands.
    • This book is a single source covering many coal-related subjects of interest ranging from explaining what coal is, where it is distributed and quantities it can be found in throughout the world, technical and policy issues regarding the use of coal, technologies used and under development for utilizing coal to produce heat, electricity, and chemicals with low environmental impact, vision for utilizing coal well into the 21st century, and the security coal presents.
  • The Coal Question: Political Economy and Industrial Change From the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day, Michael Dintenfass, Routledge (1990)[16]
    • Over the last decade Ben Fine has written extensively about the history of the British coal industry and the economic theory employed to interpret it. His new book examines four aspects of the historical economics of coal: the structure of the industry; the system of property rights in which it developed; scale, technological change, and productivity; and public ownership and the political economy of denationalization. Though not a comprehensive account of the coal industry's dramatic rise and fall, The Coal Question is an ambitious work. Fine aims both to analyze "some of the problems that have plagued the British coal industry" (p. xi) and "to bring to the fore alternative interpretations and causative factors in economics and economic history" that will prove applicable beyond the case of coal (p. xiv).
  • Coal Waste Impoundments: Risk, Responses, and Alternatives, National Research Council Committee on Coal Waste Impoundments, National Academies Press (2002) [17]
    • On October 11, 2000, a breakthrough of Martin County Coal Corporation's coal waste impoundment released 250 million gallons of slurry in Inez, Kentucky. The 72-acre surface impoundment for coal-processing waste materials broke through into a nearby underground coal mine. Although the spill caused no loss of human life, environmental damage was significant, and local water supplies were disrupted. This incident prompted Congress to request that the National Research Council examine ways to reduce the potential for similar accidents in the future.
    • Coal Waste Impoundments covers the engineering practices and standards for coal waste impoundments and ways to evaluate, improve, and monitor them; the accuracy of mine maps and ways to improve surveying and mapping of mines; and alternative technologies for coal slurry disposal and utilization. The book contains advice for multiple audiences, including the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Office of Surface Mining, and other federal agencies;state and local policymakers and regulators; the coal industry and its consultants; and scientists and engineers.
  • The Making of Federal Coal Policy, Robert Henry Nelson, Duke University Press (1983) [18]
  • U.S. Coal: A Primer on the Major Issues, Marc Humphries, Nova Publishers (2004) [19]
    • The US coal industry has gone through a number of gradual shifts in recent decades. The industry has become more concentrated, and mine productivity has improved. More low-sulphur coal and less high sulphur coal is today being produced. Less coal is exported, in part because of a strong US dollar. Improved production methods, such as greater utilisation of and improvements in longwall mining technology, have lowered the cost of underground mining, although surface mining continues to hold a substantial cost advantage.
    • The United States is well endowed with coal. The total demonstrated resource base is estimated by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) at 508 billion short tons, of which about 274 billion short tons are classified as recoverable reserves. US recoverable reserves are estimated at 25% of total world reserves. Production of US coal reached an all-time high in 2001 at 1,121 million short tons. Coal supplies 22% of the nation's energy demand but 52% of its electricity needs. EIA forecasts coal to fall to 47% of the US electricity market by 2025 because of increased competition from natural gas. About 1,063 million short tons of coal were consumed in the United States in 2001, 90% of which was used in the electric power sector. Currently, railroads move about 65% of all coal, barges transport about 15%, and trucks about 11%. The outlook for US coal is mixed.
    • While forecasts predict steady growth in coal supply and demand, the increased production is expected to come from fewer, larger mines and fewer producers. Continued competition from natural gas is likely to put pressure on coal prices for the foreseeable future.
  • World Coal: Economics, Politics, and Prospects, Richard L. Gordon, CUP Archive (1987) [20]

Juvenile Non-Fiction

  • Coal, Neil Morris, Black Rabbit Books (2005) [21]
    • Earth's Resources offers a fascinating look at the useful materials hidden in the earth and how humans through the ages have sought and collected them. From highly prized materials such as diamonds and gold to commonly used substances such as salt and oil, each book examines the processes involved in gathering these resources, as well as their past, present, and future uses.
  • Growing Up in Coal Country, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (1999) [22]
    • Inspired by her in-laws' recollections of working in coal country, Susan Campbell Bartoletti has gathered the voices of men, women, and children who immigrated to and worked in northeastern Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. The story that emerges is not just a story of long hours, little pay, and hazardous working conditions; it is also the uniquely American story of immigrant families working together to make a new life for themselves. It is a story of hardship and sacrifice, yet also of triumph and the fulfillment of hopes and dreams.

Narratives

  • Colstrip, Montana, David T. Hanson, Taverner Press (2010)
    • In his review of the book, Alex Davies writes:[23]
In his book Colstrip, Montana (distributed by D.A.P.), photographer David T. Hanson tells the story of a town that would never have been founded if it weren't for the fortune in dirty coal that lies beneath it—around $350,000 per acre. It is a story told through Hanson's photographs; a Montana native, Hanson has been photographing Colstrip since the early 1980s. The book's only text consists of an introduction and a concluding essay by writer and environmental activist Rick Bass. The 81 photographs that are the heart of the book are sobering. They highlight not only the environmental destruction that the mines and plant have wreaked on the landscape, but also the overwhelming industrialism that surrounds Colstrip's inhabitants. They insist on the essential ugliness of how we get this coal: it cannot be right or healthy, for us and our world. There are no people in the photographs, but the human hand print is everywhere.
  • The Failure of Global Capitalism: From Cape Breton to Colombia and Beyond, Terry Gibbs and Garry Leech, Cape Breton University Press (2009).[24]
    • What do Cape Breton in Atlantic Canada and Colombia in South America have in common? Coal, for one thing. Coal mining was the backbone of Cape Breton’s industrial economy for more than one hundred years, but the last mine was closed in 2001 when the province’s utility company took advantage of neoliberal globalization by importing coal—from Colombia. But the commonalities between Cape Breton and Colombia do not end with coal, there are many more connections directly related to the capitalist system: militant labour struggles, repression, economic insecurity, population displacement, social inequality and environmental devastation. Cape Breton and Colombia epitomize the loss of well-paid, unionized industrial jobs in the global North—primarily North America and Europe—as a result of neoliberal globalization allowing multinational corporations to exploit the natural resources and cheap labour of the global South—Latin America, Africa and Asia.
  • Work and Faith in the Kentucky Coal Fields: Subject to Dust, Richard J. Callahan, Jr., Indiana University Press (2009) [25]
    • Exploring work as an important aspect of everyday life and religious activity, Richard J. Callahan, Jr., offers a history of how coal miners and their families lived their religion in eastern Kentucky's coal fields during the early 20th century. Drawing upon religious idioms to negotiate changing patterns of life and work, Callahan follows coal miners and their families from subsistence farming to industrial coal mining. He traces innovation and continuity in religious expression that emerged from the specific experiences of coal mining, including the spaces and social structures of coal towns, the working bodies of miners, the anxieties of their families, and the struggle toward organized labor. Building on oral histories, folklore, folksong, and vernacular forms of spirituality, this rich and engaging narrative recovers a social history of ordinary working people through religion.
  • Coal River, Michael Schnayerson, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (2008) [26]
    • One of America's most dramatic environmental battles is unfolding in southern West Virginia. Coal companies are decapitating the mountains. The forested ridge tops and valley streams of Appalachia--one of the country's natural treasures--are being destroyed, along with towns and communities. An entire culture is disappearing, and most Americans have no idea it's happening. Journalist Shnayerson recounts the dramatic struggle as grassroots activists speak truth to power and an inspiring young lawyer challenges the largest and most aggressive of the coal companies in a series of brilliant and daring lawsuits. From courtroom to boardroom, forest clearing to factory floor, Shnayerson gives us a novelistic and compelling portrait of the people who risked their reputations and livelihoods in the fight against King Coal.--From publisher description.
  • Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal on Southern West Virginia Communities, Shirley Stewart Burns, West Virginia University Press (2007) [27]
    • "Bringing Down the Mountains" provides insight into how mountaintop removal has affected the people and the land of southern West Virginia. It examines the mechanization of the mining industry and the power relationships between coal interests, politicians, and the average citizen. Bringing Down the Mountains reveals how a political system married to natural-resource extraction turns a blind eye to the irrevocable disfigurement of the earth while thousands of West Virginians suffer the consequences.
  • Death in the Mines: Disasters and Rescues in the Anthracite Coal Fields of Pennsylvania, J. Stuart Richards, The History Press (2007) [28]
    • Since 1870, mining disasters have claimed the lives of over 30,000 men and boys who toiled underground in the anthracite mines of Pennsylvania. The constant threat of fire, explosion, collapsed rock and deadly gas brought miners face to face with death on a daily basis. Sometimes they survived; many times they did not. Through original journal and newspaper accounts, J. Stuart Richards' Death in the Mines revisits Pennsylvania's most notorious mining accidents and rescue attempts from 1869 to 1943. From the fire at Avondale Colliery that resulted in the first law for regulation and inspection of mines, to the gas explosion at Lytle Mine in Primrose that killed fourteen men, Richards reveals multiple facets of Pennsylvania s most perilous profession. Richards, whose family has worked in the mines since 1870, offers a startling yet sensitive tribute to an industry and occupation that is often overlooked and underappreciated.
  • The People Behind Columbian Coal: Mining, Multinationals, and Human Rights, Aviva Chomsky, Garry Leech, Steve Striffler (eds.), Casa Editorial Pisando Callos (2007) [29]
  • Lost Mountain, Erik Reese, Riverhead Books (2006) [30]
    • A new form of strip mining has caused a state of emergency for the Appalachian wilderness and the communities that depend on it-a crisis compounded by issues of government neglect, corporate hubris, and class conflict. In this powerful call to arms, Erik Reece chronicles the year he spent witnessing the systematic decimation of a single mountain and offers a landmark defense of a national treasure threatened with extinction.
  • The Face of Decline, Thomas Dublin, Walter Licht, Cornell University Press (2005) [31]
    • The anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania once prospered. Today very little mining or industry remains, although residents have made valiant efforts to restore the fabric of their communities. In The Face of Decline, the noted historians Thomas Dublin and Walter Licht offer a sweeping history of this area over the course of the twentieth century.
    • Combining business, labor, social, political, and environmental history, Dublin and Licht delve into coal communities to explore grassroots ethnic life and labor activism, economic revitalization, and the varied impact of economic decline across generations of mining families.
    • The Face of Decline also features the responses to economic crisis of organized capital and labor, local business elites, redevelopment agencies, and state and federal governments. Dublin and Licht draw on a remarkable range of sources: oral histories and survey questionnaires; documentary photographs; the records of coal companies, local governments, and industrial development corporations; federal censuses; and community newspapers. The authors examine the impact of enduring economic decline across a wide region but focus especially on a small group of mining communities in the region's Panther Valley, from Jim Thorpe through Lansford to Tamaqua. The authors also place the anthracite region within a broader conceptual framework, comparing anthracite's decline to parallel developments in European coal basins and Appalachia and to deindustrialization in the United States more generally.
  • Danger, Death, and Disaster in the Crowsnest Pass Mines, 1902-1928, Karen Buckley, University of Calgary Press (2004) [32]
    • The Crowsnest Pass is famous for the tragic rock slide at Frank in 1903, but almost as famous are the many coal-mining tragedies that afflicted the region in the early twentieth century. With the discovery of a rich coal deposit in the region, the area underwent an economic boom and a spike in population that is still evidenced today. Unfortunately, with this type of mining, in rugged and often dangerous conditions, comes the threat of disaster and occasionally death.
    • This book examines carefully the various calamities that have afflicted the area and considers the impact on the inhabitants and victims of these numerous tragedies. Using original source material such as grave markers, folk songs and oral histories, the author portrays vividly the psychological and sociological features of both the individual and collective responses to death and danger, giving the reader a unique picture of mining communities that is as true today as it was a century ago.
  • Old Dominion, Industrial Commonwealth: Coal, Politics, and Economy in Antebellum America, Sean P. Adams, JHU Press (2004) [33]
    • In 1796, famed engineer and architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe toured the coal fields outside Richmond, Virginia, declaring enthusiastically, "Such a mine of Wealth exists, I believe, nowhere else!" With its abundant and accessible deposits, growing industries, and network of rivers and ports, Virginia stood poised to serve as the center of the young nation's coal trade. By the middle of the nineteenth century, however, Virginia's leadership in the American coal industry had completely unraveled while Pennsylvania, at first slow to exploit its vast reserves of anthracite and bituminous coal, had become the country's leading producer.
    • Sean Patrick Adams compares the political economies of coal in Virginia and Pennsylvania from the late eighteenth century through the Civil War, examining the divergent paths these two states took in developing their ample coal reserves during a critical period of American industrialization. In both cases, Adams finds, state economic policies played a major role. Virginia's failure to exploit the rich coal fields in the western part of the state can be traced to the legislature's overriding concern to protect and promote the interests of the agrarian, slaveholding elite of eastern Virginia. Pennsylvania's more factious legislature enthusiastically embraced a policy of economic growth that resulted in the construction of an extensive transportation network, a statewide geological survey, and support for private investment in its coal fields.
    • Using coal as a barometer of economic change, Old Dominion, Industrial Commonwealth addresses longstanding questions about North-South economic divergence and the role of state government in American industrial development, providing new insights for both political and economic historians of nineteenth-century America.
  • Coal: A Human History, Barbara Freese, Da Capo Press (2003) [34]
    • Prized as "the best stone in Britain" by Roman invaders who carved jewelry out of it, coal has transformed societies, powered navies, fueled economies, and expanded frontiers. It made China a twelfth-century superpower, inspired the writing of the Communist Manifesto, and helped the northern states win the American Civil War. Yet the mundane mineral that built our global economy -and even today powers our electrical plants-has also caused death, disease, and environmental destruction. As early as 1306, King Edward I tried to ban coal (unsuccessfully) because its smoke became so obnoxious. Its recent identification as a primary cause of global warming has made it a cause célèbre of a new kind.In this remarkable book, Barbara Freese takes us on a rich historical journey that begins three hundred million years ago and spans the globe. From the "Great Stinking Fogs" of London to the rat-infested coal mines of Pennsylvania, from the impoverished slums of Manchester to the toxic city streets of Beijing, Coal is a captivating narrative about an ordinary substance that has done extraordinary things-a simple black rock that could well determine our fate as a species.
  • In The Kingdom of Coal: An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World, Dan Rottenberg, Routledge (2003) [35]
    • It was a time of poverty and enterprise, when poor men slaved in the mines, rich men became barons and America grew from a backward agricultural colony to the industrial force of the modern world. The driving power behind this transformation was coal, the black gold that even today illuminates our cities and runs our personal computers.
    • The Kingdom of Coal tells the extraordinary story of coal through the eyes of two families--one the magnates, one the miners--over three generations while locked together, for better or worse, in a common quest.
    • At the reigns of power are the Leisenrings, who built a dynasty around coal and whose fortunes intersected with those of Henry Clay Frick, the Carnegies and the other masters of the American industrial revolution. Miles underground are the sons and daughters of the Givens family, who gave their sweat and sometimes their lives to the Leisenrings' Virginia mines.
    • Rich with the struggles of management and labor from two unforgettable families, In The Kingdom of Coal is an American saga of how coal operators made and lost fortunes, coal towns flourished and died, and miners and mine owners battled the earth, the atmosphere and each other in their quest to satisfy the world's appetite for coal.
  • Boys in the Pits: Child Labour in Coal Mining, Robert G. McIntosh, McGill-McQueen Press (2000) [36]
    • Beginning early in the nineteenth century, thousands of Canadian boys, some as young as eight, laboured underground -- driving pit ponies along narrow passageways, manipulating ventilation doors, and helping miners cut and load coal at the coalface to produce the energy that fuelled Canada's industrial revolution. Boys died in the mines in explosions and accidents. They also organized strikes for better working conditions but were instead expelled from the mines and lost their jobs.
    • Boys in the Pits shows the rapid maturity of the boys and their role in resisting exploitation. In a controversial interpretation of child labour, Robert McIntosh recasts wage-earning children as more than victims, showing that they were individuals who responded intelligently and resourcefully to their circumstances.
  • Caverns of Night: Coal Mines in Art, Literature, and Film, William B. Thesing, University of South Carolina Press (2000) [37]
    • Explores how creative artists have grappled with coal mining in their depictions.
  • Coal: A Memoir and Critique, Duane Lockard, University of Virginia Press (1998) [38]
    • Duane Lockard's Coal is at once an historical account of mining -- the explosions, slate falls, black lung, and floods -- and a memoir of one family's involvement in it. Four generations of his family have worked in the mines, including Lockard himself, and his book interweaves family letters and diaries with firsthand interviews and literature on the industry to evoke a century's worth of mining and coal town life. Entwined in the personal story of this coal miner's son who became a Princeton political scientist is Lockard's critique of how the coal industry has behaved as a corporate citizen and how it exemplifies corporate power in American life.
    • Although mining conditions are vastly improved from those of fifty years ago, the picture Lockard paints is far from positive; he offers a detailed account of how corporations have pursued profits and corporate hegemony at the expense of their workers' health and the natural environment. Although fatalities have fallen to fewer than one hundred per year (as opposed to the thousands of fifty years ago), long-term health and environmental problems persist: contaminated streams, polluted air, and the legacy of black lung disease. Just as devastating are the financial repercussions for coal towns whose seams run dry.
    • Lockard's observations about the behavior of coal corporations are informed not only by his family's long involvement with mining but also by the analytical tools honed in his distinguished career as a political scientist. In this multilayered book, he shares with the reader both the immediacy of his own life experiences and the thoughtful results of many decades observing the exercise of corporate power in America.
  • Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area, Harry S. Caudill, Jesse Stuart Foundation (1962) [39]
    • At the time it was written, Night Comes to the Cumberlands framed an urgent appeal to the American Conscience. Today it details Appalachia's difficult past, and at the same time, presents an accurate historical backdrop for a contemporary understanding of the Appalachian region.

Race

  • Race, Class, and Power in the Alabama Coal Fields 1908-1921, Brian Kelly, University of Illinois Press (2001) [40]
    • In this lucid and supremely readable study, Brian Kelly challenges the prevailing notion that white workers were the main source of resistance to racial equality in the Jim Crow South. Focusing on a period framed by two major coalfield strikes, this important volume presents new evidence of the role white elites played in fomenting racial discord at the bottom of southern society.
    • Supported by the voices of the coal miners, trade unionists, and mine operators of early twentieth-century Birmingham, Alabama, Kelly chronicles the hard-fought strike of 1908, during which black and white miners came together in a practical alliance. After breaking the strike, the region's powerful industrialists consolidated their control, combining techniques anchored in the discriminatory and paternalistic structure of the Old South with northern-inspired welfare capitalism to hold wages to the lowest levels in the country.
    • When the demand for labor brought on by World War I shifted the balance of power and rejuvenated mineworkers' militancy, the operators panicked, resorting to race-baiting, coercion, and vigilantism to combat the threat of black and white unity. In the lead-up to the dramatic 1920 strike, the employers were aided in their efforts to split the workforce by Birmingham's small but influential black middle class, whose espousal of industrial accommodation outraged black miners and revealed significant tensions within the African-American community.
  • Monacans and Miners: Native American and Coal Mining Communities in Appalachia, Samuel R. Cook, University of Nebraska Press (2000) [41]
  • The Challenge of Interratial Unionism: Alabama Coal Miners 1878-1921, Daniel Letwin, UNC Press (1997) [42]
    • This study explores a tradition of interracial unionism that persisted in the coal fields of Alabama from the dawn of the New South through the turbulent era of World War I. Daniel Letwin focuses on the forces that prompted black and white miners to collaborate in the labor movement even as racial segregation divided them in nearly every other aspect of their lives.Letwin examines a series of labor campaigns—conducted under the banners of the Greenback-Labor party, the Knights of Labor, and, most extensively, the United Mine Workers—whose interracial character came into growing conflict with the southern racial order.
    • This tension gives rise to the book's central question: to what extent could the unifying potential of class withstand the divisive pressure of race?Arguing that interracial unionism in the New South was much more complex and ambiguous than is generally recognized, Letwin offers a story of both promise and failure, as a movement crossing the color line alternately transcended and succumbed to the gathering hegemony of Jim Crow.
  • Coal, Class, and Color: Blacks in Southern West Virginia (1915-1932), John William Trotter, University of Illinois Press (1990) [43]
    • How were southern black transformed rural agricultural workers into members of the industrial working class? Joe William Trotter, Jr., examines the unique experience of black coal miners in southern West Virginia between World War l. an the Great Depression, showing how the subtle interplay of race, class, and region altered black people personal and collective existence.
  • Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class, and Community Conflict, 1780-1980, Ronald L. Lewis, University Press of Kentucky (1987) [44]
    • Black workers have been an important part of the coal-mining industry from colonial times until the decline of the industry in the 1950s, but this part of American labor and industrial history has up to now been mostly unknown or ignored. Lewis provides a comprehensive history of these black coal miners as slaves, as convicts, and as wage laborers, until the final displacement of most by mechanization. How they fared in southern, northern, midwestern, and central Appalachian mines is fully, but also often tediously, detailed. Lewis's contention that their treatment can be explained by the orthodox Marxist theory of class conflict is not, however, convincing. Suitable for labor and black history collections.

Unions

  • Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War, Thomas G. Andrews, Harvard University Press (2008)[45]
    • This intricately crafted yet eminently readable book pulls together labor history, environmental history, social history, and economic history to reshape how we should think about extractive industry in the West. We should not ignore coal and other fossil fuels; we should not ignore the environmental causes and consequences of our labors and labor problems; we should not forget the humanity-and hubris--of all sides of ideological and economic fights. Andrews brings a love of Colorado to a work of deep historical rigor and will please western history buffs and more theoretically-inclined folks alike.
  • Linked Labor Histories: New England, Colombia, and the Making of a Global Working Class, Aviva Chomsky, Duke University Press (2008) [46]
    • Exploring globalization from a labour history perspective, Aviva Chomsky provides historically grounded analyses of migration, labour-management collaboration, and the mobility of capital. She illuminates these dynamics through case studies set mostly in New England and Colombia. Taken together, the case studies offer an intricate portrait of two regions, their industries, their workers, and the myriad links between them over the long twentieth century, as well as a new way to conceptualize globalization as a long-term process.
    • In the 1980s, two U.S. coal mining companies began to shift their operations to Colombia, where they opened two of the largest open-pit coal mines in the world. Chomsky assesses how different groups, especially labour unions in both countries, were affected. Linked Labor Histories suggests that economic integration among regions often exacerbates regional inequalities rather than ameliorating them.
  • The Price of Colorado Coal: A Tale of Ludlow and Columbine, George Ewing Ogle, Xlibris (2006)[47]
    • The Price of Colorado Coal is based on two events in the history of Colorado coal mining that are called massacres: Ludlow (1914) and Columbine (1927).
  • Slaughter in Serene: The Columbine Coal Strike Reader, Lowell May and Richard Meyer, Bread and Roses Workers' Cultural Center Press (2005) [48]
    • The state of Colorado deployed machine guns, bomber aircraft, and cannons to control the miners. Their message: we have the authority and the power; you, the out-of-control workers, must submit. But the workers were not just any workers. These were miners, men who descended on a rickety cage into the dark maw of hell every workday of their lives. They worked with blasting powder; they fought with coal car mules. They waded through black water floods; they chiseled a living from the depths. How can you intimidate a man who faces death daily? But the strikers had another surprise, another front that would not be intimidated. The women of the 1920s coal camps became the miners’ most valuable allies. Slaughter in Serene: the Columbine Coal Strike Reader uncovers a history that had nearly been forgotten. It is a history of triumph and tragedy, of working class dreams and rapacious corporate greed. Eric Margolis, Joanna Sampson, Phil Goodstein and Richard Myers! present a compelling history of the 1927 coal strike led by the Industrial Workers of the World. This was the first strike in which Colorado miners were not defeated utterly. This was the last strike in which a state militia played their dubious role. Sadly, it was just one of a number of strikes in which miners and their families confronted violence perpetrated by the power of the state. A wonderful slice of oral history from below, copiously illustrated with original photographs, and extracts from IWW and not so sympathetic papers...
  • A Strike like No Other Strike: Law & Resistance During the Pittston Coal Strike of 1989-1990, Richard A. Brisbin, Jr., John Hopkins University Press (2002) [49]
    • The miners' strike against Pittston Coal in 1989--1990, which spread throughout southwestern Virginia, southern West Virginia, and eastern Kentucky, was one of the most important strikes in the history of American labor, and, as Richard Brisbin observes, "one of the longest and largest incidents of civil disorder and civil disobedience in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century." The company aggressively sought to break the strike, and workers and their families used a variety of tactics -- lawful and unlawful -- to resist Pittston's efforts as the situation quickly turned ugly. In A Strike like No Other Strike: Law and Resistance during the Pittston Coal Strike of 1989--1990, Richard Brisbin offers a compelling study of the exercise of political power. In considering the legal significance of the strike, Brisbin asks the larger question of whether even extreme transgression or resistance can fracture the "imagined coherence of the law." He shows how each party in the strike invoked the law to justify its actions while attacking those of the other side as unlawful. In the end, both sides lost; although the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the union, most of the strikers faced elimination of their jobs and an ongoing struggle for pensions and health benefits.
  • Which Side Are You On?: The Harlan County Coal Miners 1931-1939, John W. Hevener, University of Illinois Press (2002) [50]
    • Depression-era Harlan County, Kentucky, was the site of one of the most bitter and protracted labor disputes in American history. The decade-long conflict between miners and the coal operators who adamantly resisted unionization has been immortalized in folksong by Florence Reece and Aunt Molly Jackson, contemplated in prose by Theodore Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson, and long been obscured by popular myths and legends.
    • John W. Hevener separates the fact from the legend in his Weatherford Award-winning investigation of Harlan's civil strife, now available for the first time in paperback. In Which Side Are You On? Hevener attributes the violence--including the deaths of thirteen union miners--to more than just labor conflict, viewing Harlan's troubles as sectional economic conflict stemming from the county's rapid industrialization and social disorganization in the preceding decade.
    • Detailing the dimensions of unionization and the balance of power spawned by New Deal labor policy after government intervention, Which Side Are You On? is the definitive analysis of Harlan's bloody decade and a seminal contribution to American labor history."

Women

  • Daughters of the Mountain: Women Coal Miners in Central Appalachia, Suzanne E. Tallichet, Penn State Press (2006) [51]
    • Much has been written over the years about life in the coal mines of Appalachia. Not surprisingly, attention has focused mainly on the experiences of male miners. In Daughters of the Mountain, Suzanne Tallichet introduces us to a cohort of women miners at a large underground coal mine in southern West Virginia, where women entered the workforce in the late 1970s after mining jobs began opening up for women throughout the Appalachian coalfields.Tallichet's work goes beyond anecdotal evidence to provide complex and penetrating analyses of qualitative data. Based on in-depth interviews with female miners, Tallichet explores several key topics, including social relations among men and women, professional advancement, and union participation. She also explores the ways in which women adapt to mining culture, developing strategies for both resistance and accommodation to an overwhelmingly male-dominated world.
  • Women of Coal, Randall Norris, Jean-Phillipe Cypres, University Press of Kentucky (1996) [52]
    • Captures the lives of three generations of women in the coalfields of central Appalachia, challenging the stereotypes of Appalachian women in fifty-five stories and accompanying photographs that celebrate the women's capacity for perseverance and protest

Fiction

  • King Coal, Upton Sinclair, IndyPublish (2008) [53]
    • Hal Warner is a college man who visits the coal camps of Colorado to learn what they are really like. He finds out how a traveler can be arrested and robbed of his money and watch. When he makes a friend he learns about the fear that oppresses workers in a company town. A complainer can be fired and blacklisted in the whole state. Death and crippling injuries are too common, the mine bosses ignore the state laws. Education in public schools offers a view of a wider world. Otherwise the people in these camps are like medieval serfs without their many holidays and benefits. Sinclair shows his bias against drinking, as if that was the cause of the worker's poverty instead of the result. The company preacher in the company church spoke against demon rum, but not the poverty and oppression they endured. Over-work caused "industrial drinking".
    • Miners were cheated on the amount of coal they produced. There was a caste system based on nationality. [Divide et impera?] The company supervisors tried to prostitute young women. Any accident is blamed on the victim. Hal gets a better job by paying off the boss. Hard physical labor dulled the mind and wearied the body. Workers were encouraged to spy on each other. An organizer for the United Mine-Workers shows up and explains why the workers need a union: to enforce the state laws that are ignored by the company bosses. In Book II Sinclair tells of the care needed to organize so the miners can get an honest weight for their coal. There had been a big strike once. The local government and state militia acted for the mine owners. Strike leaders were put in jail without being charged. Others were railroaded and left in a desert without food or water. Judges were forbidden to act! The strike was broken.
    • Hal learns how the votes are counted by the coal company: their man always wins! The miners decide on what to do, and how to handle the expected violence (rely on moral force). The company concocts a reason to put Hal in jail. The marshal tells Hal how the courts and jury are rigged to railroad him to prison, perfectly legal. But Hal has a surprise for the marshal. A mine explosion occurs. Sinclair describes the effects it has below and above ground. These accidents result when the company disregards the safety laws. The mine company is slow to rescue the men; there is a profit motive there (as in Cherry Illinois)! Hal is then railroaded out of town.
    • This fast-paced story tells about the political system that is corrupted by big corporations. Hal acts as a knight who passes many tests and difficulties to save the imperiled miners. Can people depend on the "old-school tie" to make everything right? Sinclair's writing skills have improved since "The Jungle" of 1906. This book describes life in a company town a century ago. Have things changed since? Will this past return? Sinclair is no longer totally in favor of alcohol prohibition. The examples in states showed this did not prevent the oppression that resulted in poverty.
  • Strange as This Weather Has Been, Ann Pancake, Shoemaker & Hoard (2007) [54]
    • Domestic conflicts involving a town's endangerment by mining plans threaten to tear apart a family when matriarch Lace contemplates fighting the mine owners and her daughter, Bant, becomes involved with a miner. A first novel.
  • Coal Camp Justice: Two Wrongs Make a Right, Ricardo L. Garcia, University of New Mexico Press (2005) [55]
    • From the coal camps of northeastern New Mexico comes a tale of families and friends struggling to rise above working and living conditions Theodore Roosevelt once described as worse than the serfdom of the Middle Ages. In this prequel to 'Coal Camp Days', the Chicorico miners battle to establish a labour union that promises to rectify dangerous and oppressive mining conditions.
    • The story opens in 1931 when Julian and Dahlia Heard, an African American coal mining family, take in Swannie, a town drunk. Swannie finds sobriety, peace, and opportunity with the Heards until his friend Judo Perkovich dies in a tragic mining accident. Swannie stands up for Judo's widow and, as a result, is fired from the mine. He finds work in Raton as a 'dry agent', waging battle against local moonshiners in Colfax County -- and the local coal camps. Swannie disappears one day while demolishing a still near Chicorico. When a body is found in the nearby hills, Swannie's friend Julian Heard is nearly killed by a camp guard who will stop at nothing to secure a confession for the crime.
  • King Coal's Slaves, William G. Williams, Burd Street Press (2002) [56]
    • The mining of coal created jobs, built towns, and powered the ships, trains, and factories, which leapfrogged the United States into one of the world's most powerful nations. But it also snuffed out the lives of too many men and boys and left too many widows struggling to keep the rest of their families intact.
    • In The Coal King's Slaves, a father and his three sons face blackness, filth, hardships, and extreme danger in the anthracite coal mines of eastern Pennsylvania while the woman of their home struggles to keep her family alive. The Coal King's Slaves, a historical novel set in the late 1800s, looks back on family life, living conditions, social barriers, industrial greed, violent confrontations, and death and destruction in the coal pits. Some saw "King Coal" as the answer to a fairly steady income. Some felt it was the mysterious force that attracted men to a dangerous occupation and a proud brotherhood of workers. And some assigned the title, with disgust, to mine owners and managers who had more concern for the well-being of mine mules than they did for human workers. The 19th century was a particularly cruel time for mining families, and the treatment they received from many owners and managers led to deadly confrontations and finally to the formation of miners' unions. Not all bosses were cruel people, but many did lack compassion for the needs of employees, their families, their health problems, their living conditions, and their lives in general. For too many miners it was a form of slavery from which escape was difficult.
  • Coal Camp Days, Ricardo L. Garcia, University of New Mexico Press (2001) [57]
    • The coalfields of northern New Mexico are the setting for the remembrances of six-year-old Matias Montaño, a fictionalized version of the author’s life in the last years of World War II. García writes about ordinary coal-mining people as they struggle to make a living and raise families, and about their heroism, joy for living, and their belief in the value of education, hard work, and the American Dream.
  • A Coal Miner's Daughter: the Diary of Anetka Kaminska, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Scholastic Inc. (2000) [58]
    • Plucky Anetka is determined to thrive in her new life in an arranged marriage to a Pennsylvania coal miner. In spite of the fact that her husband doesn't love her, his three daughters still mourn their dead mother, and she has left behind everything she knows and loves in Poland, this 13-year-old redhead rolls up her sleeves and gets down to the backbreaking business of keeping house.
    • Working conditions in the mines are horrendous and the labor movement is rumbling; nearly every day, wives watch in frightened yet resigned anticipation as the Black Maria, the "death wagon," rattles down the street to the newest widow's door. When the Black Maria shows up at Anetka's shanty just a few months after her wedding, she must dig deeper into her reserves of strength to carry on. Luckily, a young man named Leon has been patiently waiting in the wings. Their relationship is sweetly immature--until the very end, she persists in trying to convince herself she can't stand him because he teases her.
    • The fact that there are no real surprises in Susan Campbell Bartoletti's historical novel will not detract from readers' enjoyment of the story. The emphasis is on the historically accurate descriptions of coal mines in Lattimer, Pennsylvania, during the late 1890s. An informative author's note, photographs, notes to a coal-mining song, and even a tantalizing recipe for potato dumplings round out this fascinating portrait of a grim time in history.

Articles and Resources

Sources

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