The Bootleg Coal Rebellion


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The Pennsylvania Miners Who Seized an Industry, 1925–1942

By Mitch Troutman
Foreword by Staughton Lynd
PM Press

Told with great intimacy and compassion, The Bootleg Coal Rebellion uncovers a long-buried history of resistance and resilience among depression-era miners in Pennsylvania, who sank their own mines on company grounds and fought police, bankers, coal companies, and courts to form a union that would not only safeguard their livelihoods but also protect their collective autonomy as citizens and workers for decades. Community and labor organizer Mitch Troutman brings this explosive and accessible American tale to life through the bootleggers’ own words. Activists, scholars, and organizers will celebrate this story of the people who literally seized mountains and stood their ground to create the equalization movement, the miners’ union democracy movement, and the Communist-led Unemployed Councils of the anthracite region. This epic story of work, love, and community stands as a testament to the power of collective action; a story that is sorely needed as communities today rise to confront neoliberal policies ravaging our planet.

“It is not a new discovery that ‘bootleg’ coal was widely mined in Pennsylvania coal fields during the Depression. However, Troutman’s wide-ranging research enables him to tell the story with great immediacy, at times almost person by person. We learn how dangerous this improvised mining could be when we are told in detail how often inexperienced young men (and a few women) went forth to scrape what was left off old shafts or seek to open up new veins of coal without being able properly to support the roof under which they dug. We watch as every member of the family of unemployed miners has a task capable of performance at their age in the improvised production process.”—Staughton and Alice Lynd, co-editors of Rank and File

Additional information

Weight 14.5 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × 0.75 in