Anne T. Lawrence Mine Workers Oral History Collection
Scope and Contents
The Anne T. Lawrence Mine Workers Oral History Collection was a “Youthgrant” project from the National Endowment for the Humanities to the Miner’s Voice, an independent newspaper for rank and file miners published in Charleston, WV. This collection contains the audio cassette oral histories carried out by Anne Lawrence, transcriptions, and the bound and printed final report.
- 1972 March - 1973 January
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.
Biographical / Historical
In the 1920s-1930s, the central Appalachian coal fields were the scene of heavy industrial warfare. The coal operators believed that maintaining the open shop while under pricing their competitors would preserve their share of a dwindling market. The United Mine Workers (U.M.W.A.) needed to solidify the coal fields or face potential losses of previously unionized mines and operators. After World War I, union membership was at an all time high but the companies began implementing open shop techniques: labor injunctions, “yellow-dog” contracts, company spies, imported strikebreakers, company unions, and bribing local authorities. The union had always been strong in the hard coal fields in eastern Pennsylvania and the “Central Competitive” soft coal fields of Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, and western Pennsylvania. Due to lack of rail facilities and infrastructure, the southern fields of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, were late to develop and the union did not have a historical presence. As the demand for coal leveled off, the industry became plagued with chronic overproduction. Wages not protected by the union fell with the price of coal.
In that economic market, the operators paying non-union wages maintained a competitive advantage over the union mines.
As more of the union mines were either bankrupting or repudiating their contracts, the U.M.W.A. decided that consolidating the Appalachian coal fields was of primary concern. Coal operators in that region, backed by private detective organizations, such as the Baldwin-Felts Agency, intimidated union organizers, blacklisted, fired, or physically assaulted miners, and maintained a strict control of the working conditions. In addition, operators typically paid the salaries of local sheriff offices, typically in the tonnage rate. With travel difficult, miners were very isolated from other mines and other labor movements.
Violence between the coal operators and miners during that time was extreme. Countless union organizers and sympathetic miners were murdered and beaten and eventually retaliated. The Matewan Massacre in Mingo County, West Virginia; the Battle of Blair Mountain in Logan County West Virginia; and the Battle of Evarts in Harlan County, West Virginia are all examples of this working class violence. The skirmishes mostly ended with the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and the efforts of then U.M.W.A. president John L. Lewis.
2.5 Linear Feet (1 Document Box, 2 Boxes containing 60 Audio Cassettes, 1 Bound Volume)
Language of Materials
This collection contains the oral history cassette tapes from Anne T. Lawrence's Mine Workers Oral History Project.
Organized into 1 series: Oral History Audio Cassettes.
Materials may be stored off-site, and may require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.
- Guide to the Anne T. Lawrence Mine Workers Oral History collection, 1972-1973
- Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English