Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New History Projects in the Works

On my plate for early 2014: two new projects in the works, revitalizing my constant drive to dig deeper into stories of struggle, justice, and the political fringe.

company scrip from a coal mine in Logan, West Virginia

I've been invited to join the group forming a new Museum of the West Virgina Mine Wars down in Matewan, West Virgina. Matewan was the backdrop for the skirmish which soon led to the Battle of Blair Mountain (Sept. 1921). I've just started working with a lively group of Logan and Mingo County residents, historians, miners, and activists to bring together what will hopefully be an invigorating museum in Matewan itself. I'll be visiting the site later this spring to do some heavy brainstorming and get started on renovations, and I'm very excited by the possibilities.

I'm also picking up again on a trail I let slide a couple years back: digging for the story behind the forced-at-gunpoint excommunication of twenty-five Italian immigrant families from the Guffey Hollow coal mine in Westmoreland County in Western Pennsylvania in the autumn of 1901. The "eviction" of these families followed on the heels of the anarchist Leon Czolgosz's assassination of President William McKinley, which sparked a nation-wide sweep of judicial and vigilante crack-downs on the American Left - especially anarchists, which the Guffey miners were accused of being. I haven't set to really digging out a lost history in ages, and it's invigorating to start writing again and eventually put out a small zine/booklet - whether or not I ever find out what really happened at Guffey that September night.

one of the few pieces of evidence I currently have of the Guffey Hollow incident, from The Washington Post, September 18, 1901
PS: I'm back in conversation with Stuart Anderson about our languishing penny-crusher project... finally looking to start the actual fabrication late in 2014.

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