Guest Blog Post by Dr. Harvard Ayers, a professor emeritus in anthropology at Appalachian State University, a board member of Friends of Blair Mountain and one of the founders of Appalachian Voices.
Appalachian Voices is an official sponsor of the Blair Mountain March and Rally.
The Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921 was the second largest armed insurrection in U.S. history, and the culmination of the “mine wars”, where much blood was shed in order to secure labor rights for miners.
Will Blair Mountain be preserved as the iconic symbol of the union coal miners’ struggle for human rights, or will it be destroyed by the powerful coal operators, who have done so much to repress any knowledge of the 1921 battle?
Wanting to preserve this piece of history, I, along with historian Barbara Rasmussen, on behalf of Friends of Blair Mountain, succeeded in getting the Blair Mountain Battlefield on the National Register of Historic Places in March 2009.
However, nine months later, due to a bogus list of objectors created by the coal operators, the National Park Service took the rare action of de-listing the site. The coal operators want to blow the mountaintop up to get the coal underneath and to eradicate any evidence of the 1921 battle. Friends of Blair Mountain, along with Sierra Club, are currently pursuing legal action to get the site re-listed.
In order to highlight the support for protecting of Blair Mountain and other places threatened by mountaintop removal mining, a coalition of groups, including Friends of Blair Mountain and Appalachian Voices, are organizing the Blair Mountain March and Rally from June 6-11. This 50-mile, five-day march from Marmet to Blair, West Virginia is the same route taken by the pro-union miners in 1921 to the battle.
The goal of the event is to call for the abolition of mountaintop removal, ensure miners’ rights, and work for a just transition to the a renewable energy economy.
The rally in Blair on June 11 will feature a number of friends of not only Blair Mountain but of all the Appalachian Mountains. Environmental attorney and activist, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., will speak, and country singing stars Emmylou Harris and Kathy Mattea will perform. In addition, a number of coalfield citizens who have direct connections to the 1921 marchers will share their stories.
To kick off the march on Blair Mountain on Sunday, June 5, there will be a benefit concert tribute to the late Appalachian bluegrass legend and social activist, Hazel Dickens, at the West Virginia Cultural Center in Charleston at 7:00 PM. Grammy Award winner Tim O’Brien will perform with other West Virginia artists. All the proceeds will go to help fund the Blair Mountain march. Prior to her recent passing, Hazel Dickens was planning to headline the concert, as Blair Mountain was near and dear to her heart. Tickets are available for purchase here.
We welcome anyone and everyone who would like to join this historic march. To learn more, visit friendsofblairmountain.org.
Friends of Blair Mountain