The Dynamics of Race and Ethnicity in the US Coal Industry

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146 Joe William Trotter Jr, actions represented viable alternatives to the system of ethnic and racial. stratification in the workforce and community life of coalmining towns 1. A plethora of studies soon followed Gutman s lead 2 These studies accented. the occasions when class solidarity spurred by the organizing activities of the. UMWA submerged the color line and challenged the authority of coalmine. operators Before such understandings of interracial solidarity in coalminers. lives and struggles could take hold labor analyst Herbert Hill offered a. stinging critique of the shortcomings of research inspired by Gutman s agenda. for a new history of coalminers Hill underscored the persistence of racial. hostility within the coalmining workforce as well as the union despite. moments of substantial evidence of unity across the color line 3. At about the same time historian David Roediger and others produced. studies emphasizing the salience of white privilege The notion of white. privilege incorporated workers as well as elites across all sectors of the. American economy society and politics including the coercive powers of. the state 4 Partly under the impact of Hill s critique and the emergence of. whiteness scholarship a fresh wave of studies offered increasingly. complicated portraits of labor relations in the coalfields of industrial. America By the turn of the twenty first century such studies largely. rejected scholarly inquiries into relations between black and white. workers as either harmonious or antagonistic 5 Contemporary scholarship. 1 Herbert Gutman The Negro and the United Mine Workers of America The Career and. Letters of Richard L Davis and Something of their Meaning 1890 1900 in Julius Jacobson ed. The Negro and the American Labor Movement Garden City NY 1968 pp 49 127 Reprinted. in Herbert Gutman Work Culture and Society in Industrializing America Essays in American. Working Class and Social History New York 1976 pp 121 208. 2 Early studies following Gutman s lead include David A Corbin Life Work and Rebellion in. the Coal Fields The Southern West Virginia Miners 1880 1922 Urbana IL 1981 Paul. Worthman Black Workers and Labor Unions in Birmingham Alabama 1897 1904 Labor. History 10 1969 pp 375 407 Stephen Brier Interracial Organizing in the West Virginia Coal. Industry The Participation of Black Mine Workers in the Knights of Labor and the United Mine. Workers 1880 1894 and Daniel P Jordan The Mingo War Labor Violence in the Southern. West Virginia Coal Fields 1919 1922 both in Gary M Fink and Merl E Reed eds Essays in. Southern Labor History Westport CT 1977 pp 18 43 and 102 143. 3 Herbert Hill Myth Making as Labor History Herbert Gutman and the United. Mine Workers of America International Journal of Politics Culture and Society 2 1988. pp 132 200 Nell Irvin Painter The New Labor History and the Historical Moment. International Journal of Politics Culture and Society 2 1989 pp 367 370. 4 David Roediger History Making and Politics International Journal of Politics Culture and. Society 2 1989 pp 371 372 idem The Wages of Whiteness Race and the Making of the. American Working Class London 1991 Peter Kolchin Whiteness Studies The New History. of Race in America Journal of American History 89 2002 pp 154 173 Eric Arnesen. Whiteness and the Historians Imagination International Labor and Working Class History. 60 2001 pp 3 32 and responses to Arnesen s essay by James Barrett and others ibid pp 33 80. 5 Daniel Letwin The Challenge of Interracial Unionism Alabama Coal Miners 1878 1921. Chapel Hill NC 1998 p 6 For more examples of studies in this vein see Karin A Shapiro. Downloaded from https www cambridge org core IP address 167 172 254 57 on 27 Apr 2020 at 20 35 02 subject to the Cambridge Core. terms of use available at https www cambridge org core terms https doi org 10 1017 S002085901500036X. Dynamics of Race and Ethnicity in the US Coal Industry 147. underscores the distinctive experiences of each group it acknowledges deep. cleavages along the color line and it notes how the rigors of life and labor in. the coal industry including the ongoing alliance of capital with the military. might of the state nonetheless helped to create a work culture and politics. that cut across racial and ethnic divisions, Drawing upon this expanding body of recent scholarship on the coal. industry as well as upon my own earlier research on coalminers in southern. West Virginia this essay addresses a series of debates in the historiography. of coalminers in America First and most important it confronts the. class race debate ignited by Herbert Hill when he challenged Gutman s. interpretation of labor and race relations in the US coal industry This article. reinforces Hill s emphasis on the deep racial divide in both the coalmining. workforce and the union but it also accents the powerful role that the. UMWA played in galvanizing interracial unity compared with other. industrial unions such as the steelworkers and meatpackers at the time. While this article identifies the color line as the most enduring and. pronounced division among coalminers in industrial America it rejects the. conclusion that the entrenched racial hostility of white workers employers. and the state largely obliterated the influence of black miners over their own. lives On the contrary African American miners forged a variety of. strategies for shaping their own experience in the coalfields Their efforts. included the construction of their own coalmining communities as well as. membership in the UMWA when and where possible In other words. despite powerful recent critiques decrying the limits of an entire generation. of scholarship accenting the self activities of poor and working class. people 6 this essay underscores the need for ongoing if more nuanced. treatments of this indelible thread in black workers culture and politics. Black miners history was by no means as uniform or monolithic as. sometimes suggested in labor and working class studies In addition to. highlighting the agency of black workers this study addresses questions. of variation across regions as well as time in the lives of black no less than. white miners African Americans first entered the coalfields as enslaved. people before the Civil War In the wake of emancipation they encountered. intense labor exploitation and inequality in the Alabama fields a measure of. A New South Rebellion The Battle against Convict Labor in the Tennessee Coalfields 1871 1896. Chapel Hill NC 1998 Brian Kelly Race Class and Power in the Alabama Coalfields 1908 21. Urbana IL 2001 Ronald L Lewis Black Coal Miners in America Race Class and Community. Conflict 1780 1980 Lexington KY 1987 Crandall A Shifflett Coal Towns Life Work and. Culture in Company Towns of Southern Appalachia 1880 1960 Knoxville TN 1991 Joe. William Trotter Jr Coal Class and Color Blacks in Southern West Virginia 1915 1932 Urbana. 6 For a provocative critique of this notion see Walter Johnson On Agency Journal of Social. History 37 2003 pp 113 124, Downloaded from https www cambridge org core IP address 167 172 254 57 on 27 Apr 2020 at 20 35 02 subject to the Cambridge Core. terms of use available at https www cambridge org core terms https doi org 10 1017 S002085901500036X. 148 Joe William Trotter Jr, equality in southern West Virginia and a pattern of stiff resistance and. exclusion in Pennsylvania Ohio and Illinois, Finally this essay calls attention to the ethnic fragmentation of the.
immigrant and American born white coalmining workforce Before. the gradual emergence of the UMWA substantial conflict characterized the. life and labor even of English speaking miners Until the 1960s however. a voluminous immigration historiography tended to homogenize. the experiences of diverse immigrant groups from the British Isles. English Scottish and Welsh although not of the Irish According to this. body of scholarship British migrants were absorbed into the general mass. of native American citizens and largely lost their identity almost. immediately It was the arrival of new immigrants from southern. central and eastern Europe that touched off virulent relations among white. During the late twentieth century immigration historians shifted their. attention away from a preoccupation with the assimilation of migrants and. immigrants into the established culture politics and society of the United. States New research focused on conflict and the persistence of old world. forms of politics and institutions in the rapidly industrializing nation 8. In sum informed by these larger currents in US labor ethnic and social. history this essay explores the numerous ways that perceived ethnic and racial. differences shaped miners experiences while emphasizing the distinctive. history of African American coalminers and their communities based upon. the pervasive ideology and practices of white supremacy. W H I T E M I N E R S E T H N I C I T Y C O N F L I C T A N D. SOLIDARITY, During the antebellum years the US coal industry gradually developed on the. basis of British immigrant miners in the anthracite district of Pennsylvania By. the 1840s some 6 800 coalminers produced nearly 2 million tons of coal in. the United States In the antebellum South namely Virginia and Alabama. enslaved African American workers supplemented the early white. 7 John J Bukowczyk Introduction Forum Thomas and Znaniecki s The Polish Peasant in. Europe and America Journal of American Ethnic History 16 1996 pp 3 15 Ronald L Lewis. Welsh Americans A History of Assimilation in the Coalfields Chapel Hill NC 2008 p 4 For. helpful theoretical and empirical assessments of assimilationist theory see also respectively Alice. O Connor Poverty Knowledge Social Science Social Policy and the Poor in Twentieth Century. US History Princeton NJ 2001 and Mildred A Beik The Miners of Windber The Struggles of. New Immigrants for Unionization 1890s 1930s University Park PA 1996. 8 Jon Gjerde New Growth on Old Vines The State of the Field The Social History of. Immigration to and Ethnicity in the United States Journal of American Ethnic History. 18 1999 pp 40 65 For an initial synthesis of this scholarship see John Bodnar The Trans. planted A History of Immigrants in Urban America Bloomington IN 1985. Downloaded from https www cambridge org core IP address 167 172 254 57 on 27 Apr 2020 at 20 35 02 subject to the Cambridge Core. terms of use available at https www cambridge org core terms https doi org 10 1017 S002085901500036X. Dynamics of Race and Ethnicity in the US Coal Industry 149. coalmining workforce 9 Following the American Civil War the. US coal industry dramatically expanded In the eastern Pennsylvania. anthracite region alone coal production rose from 13 million tons in 1870. to 54 million tons in 1910 At the same time the anthracite coalmining. workforce increased from 36 000 to over 140 000 miners In addition to. American born migrants from nearby farms and rural settlements immi. grants from England Scotland Wales and Ireland dominated the early. postbellum coalmining workforce 10, Nationality race and ethnic differences produced significant levels of. economic competition as well as social and political conflict in the US coal. industry While diverse English speaking immigrants from the British Isles. and their American born counterparts would soon develop forms of. solidarity that mitigated their differences this outcome was by no means a. foregone conclusion In the Mahoning Valley region of Ohio the Welsh not. only spoke their own language they also conducted their union meetings. entirely in Welsh In 1874 according to an Illinois miner each ethnic. group forged its own separate institutional and community life The. English have the St Georges the Scotch the St Andrews the Welsh the. S David s and the Irish the St Patrick s 11, Despite evidence of nationality and ethnic conflicts in the early. postbellum coalfields of the United States British and American born. miners soon developed bonds of solidarity in their escalating encounters. with the owners of the coalmines During the final decades of the nineteenth. century they forged a collective identity around their work in the mines. partly honed in the fires of British collieries before migration to America In. 1871 John Hall an English born miner underscored the link between his. work as a miner in the United States and his home in England I am a miner. I was a miner in the old country from which I migrated in 1848 I have. mined coal in Pennsylvania and also western Virginia I began mining work. when eight years old 12, British miners viewed themselves as fiercely proud literate and. skilled craftsmen They also described themselves as experienced and. independent contractors not mere wage earners In his groundbreaking. study of Welsh miners in the US historian Ronald Lewis provides a close. and detailed transnational portrait of how the British miners transferred. their scientific knowledge of underground mining to America as well as. 9 Priscilla Long Where the Sun Never Shines A History of America s Bloody Coal Industry. New York 1989 pp 3 5 and 19 23 See also Ronald L Lewis Coal Iron and Slaves Indus. trial Slavery in Maryland and Virginia 1715 1865 Westport CT 1979 Robert S Starobin. Industrial Slavery in the Old South New York 1970, 10 Long Where the Sun Never Shines pp 3 5 and 56 57.
ABSTRACT By the turn of the twenty first century scholars had transformed our understanding of class race and ethnicity in the rise and demise of the US coal industry Under the twin impact of the modern Black Freedom Movement and the rise of the New Labor History studies of American labor and race relations

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