BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – From mining and labor issues to social unrest, the early 20th century Appalachia was a time full of conflict and hardship. Wess Harris, historian, editor and curator came to Tamarack for three days to hold the When Miners March Traveling Museum and to highlight this unsettling time in Appalachian history.
“We don’t have a location, don’t want one. But over the years since I met William C. Blizzard who’s the son of Bill Blizzard who led the March on Blair Mountain, my life has not been the same,” says Harris.
The history of West Virginia’s Great Mine War (1912-1921) which led up to the famous Battle of Blair Mountain played a critical role in how laborers are treated even today. It also included significant contributions of Bill Blizzard, and his son William, author of the ‘When Miners March’ Coal and Labor collection, documenting this period that changed Appalachian labor history forever.
“It’s so important because some of the troubles that the unions face today, you can trace back to 1921 and Blair Mountain,” he says.
Wess Harris transformed Blizzard’s work into an educational traveling museum that illuminates the brutal yet inspiring history of the unionizing coal miners. And there was no better way to recognize this transformative period of time and how it changed our society than on this Labor Day Weekend.
“This history is where the people took the power, it’s so important that we understand that the people can have the power, all they got to do is take it,” Harris adds.
The unpublished work, ‘When Miners March,’ sat in a box for half a century before Harris met William C. Blizzard, and after discovering the work, editing, and publishing it, the work is now educating people across Appalachia and beyond.
If you’re interested in bringing the When Miners March Traveling Museum to your school, church, or other venues, you can contact Wess Harris at (304) 532-7771.