Let's help save Blair Mountain

   My buddy John Hennen is doing more than teach labor history at the “other” MSU – Morehead State University. (I’m a Murray State grad.)
   John is helping preserve labor history in his native West Virginia. We can help John.
   

   Here is a copy of a letter he sent me via cyberspace:
“Brothers and Sisters,
   “I am attaching a letter from the Friends of Blair Mountain, who are requesting that supporters consent to adding their name and affiliation to the letter for eventual publication in several media outlets.
   “You will see in the letter that the goals of the project are probably way too ambitious------Gettysburg and Colonial Williamsburg are not going to be replicated in the mountains of Logan County, WV! But the historical, conservation, and economic development messages are important for that region.
   “If you want to be included, just send me your name and affiliation (or, if you would prefer not to include your affiliation, that is fine) by e-mail and I will send that information to Dr. Lou Martin, who is representing the Friends of Blair Mountain.
   “Please respond within a few days if you want your name included in this letter.
In Solidarity,
John Hennen
   I asked him to add my John Hancock to the letter. But the more the merrier, I say. John’s email is j.hennen@moreheadstate.edu.
   Here’s the letter:  
   “Blair Mountain, West Virginia, stands at the center of American labor history. At the start of the twentieth century, the United Mine Workers of America was one of the most powerful unions in the nation but had not yet organized the southern West Virginia counties. Coal operators there were determined to keep labor costs low by any means, including repression of the rights of their workers. The struggle by those workers for a union in 1921 was a struggle for basic civil liberties in the coalfields. 
   “The Battle of Blair Mountain, where ten thousand armed miners fought the forces of Sheriff Don Chafin, who had machine gun emplacements on top of the ridge, was the culmination of a decade of armed conflict. Never before nor since have so many American workers taken up arms to fight for their constitutional rights. Blair Mountain has been discussed at dinner tables in the homes of countless miners’ families and in thousands of labor history courses at colleges and universities across the country. But the American public is still only dimly aware of the historic significance of this place in Logan County and those bloody events of 1921.
   “Now there is a battle for the very existence of Blair Mountain. West Virginians today have an opportunity to influence the future of Blair Mountain. The signers of this petition are committed to developing an economy based on the integrity of local history and culture. We as a society should not permit the mountain to be blown up. We should not allow the people around Blair Mountain to lose their homes and their community. We should preserve one of America’s most important historic sites and make it the cornerstone of a national battlefield park.
   “The Friends of Blair Mountain have drawn up plans for Historic Blair Mountain Park, a 1600-acre park in the mold of Colonial Williamsburg or Gettysburg National Military Park. The plan envisions a Welcome Center with multimedia presentations and museum exhibitions, battlefield tours, restaurants and lodging, research archives, and seasonal events. Colonial Williamsburg generates an estimated $500 million per year, and Gettysburg National Military Park brings in an estimated $380 million to its local economy. It required committed citizens with a vision to build those parks that will continue to draw large crowds for many decades to come. West Virginia has the potential to build a more sustainable economy in Logan County, but mountaineers must stand up now, recognize the historic nature of Blair Mountain, and begin the work of building the future of Logan County and southern West Virginia.

 

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