The Future of Blair Mountain

By Wess Harris
Wess Harris is a former coal miner, a union organizer, a farmer and the editor of When Miners March

Blair Mountain is a site that is sacred to American labor, so why not claim it as our own? Blair Mountain should become the Blair Mountain Center for the Development of American Labor.

Reclaimed by its rightful owners, the Blair Mountain Center will house a museum dedicated to American mine workers. The museum will be the core of an educational system offering courses by a revolving staff of scholars serving two year stints in endowed chairs: the Bill Blizzard Chair of advanced labor strategy and tactics; The Ma Blizzard Chair of direct action; the Don West chair of labor literature; the Pete Seeger Chair of solidarity forever; the William C. Blizzard Chair of labor history; the Harold Houston Chair of labor law…..

Academics accepted to serve at the center will spend their first year working in the deep mine that will dig the recoverable coal under Blair Mountain.

Scholars surviving their first year will spend the second doing a mix of teaching and research. Proceeds from the Union mine will pay for the acquisition and development of the mountain. Funds will be set aside to create an endowment that insures the center thrives in both good times and bad.

Tourists will visit portions of the mine where coal has been removed, thus gaining direct knowledge of digging coal. Daily, week long, and extended seminars will supplement standard museum fare. The Center will also offer tours to historic regional labor history sites such as Eskdale and the Holly Grove Union Burying Ground.

The Blair Mountain Mine—just as our total supply of coal—will one day be mined out. To insure a long future for the Mountain, a special center for the development of alternative energy sources—including model facilities—will be created using union labor and funded by grants from major unions.

Alternative energy scholars and researchers at the center will be expected to begin their time at the center with six months working in the mine and studying the history of American workers.

Yet one other facility needs to be located on Blair Mountain. A special judicial center will be developed to provide for the adjudication of those both living and dead who have sought to destroy our mountains and our people.

Bill Blizzard was once tried for treason against the great state of West Virginia for opposing the coal companies and seeking to bring the U.S. Constitution to the coal fields. (See Appalachian Voice, March, 2008). Now as we reclaim our mountain and our government, let’s turn the tables a bit and try those guilty of crimes against humanity in the Great West Virginia Mine War, 1890 to the present. Penalties need not be harsh, as justice is best served when tempered with mercy, but the truth must no longer be hidden.


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