The Devil Is Here in These Hills
From a celebrated labor historian, the definitive chronicle of the fight for freedom by West Virginia coal miners, an important chapter in American history.
West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom
By James Green
From before the dawn of the twentieth century until the arrival of the New Deal, one of the most protracted and deadly labor struggles in American history was waged in West Virginia. On one side were powerful corporations whose millions bought armed guards and political influence. On the other side were fifty thousand mine workers, the nation’s largest labor union, and the legendary “miners’ angel,” Mother Jones. The fight for unionization and civil rights sparked a political crisis that verged on civil war, stretching from the creeks and hollows to the courts and the U.S. Senate. In The Devil Is Here in These Hills, celebrated labor historian James Green tells the story of West Virginia and coal like never before.
The value of West Virginia’s coalfields had been known for decades, and after rail arrived in the 1870s, industrialists pushed fast into the wilderness, digging mines and building company towns where they wielded nearly complete control over everyday life. The state’s high-quality coal drove American expansion and industrialization, but for tens of thousands of laborers, including boys as young as ten, mining life showed the bitter irony of the state motto, “Mountaineers Are Always Free.” Attempts to unionize were met with stiff resistance. Fundamental rights were bent then broken, and the violence evolved from bloody skirmishes to open armed conflict, as an army of miners marched to an explosive showdown. Extensively researched and told in vibrant detail, The Devil Is Here in These Hills is the definitive book on an essential chapter in the history of American freedom.
“In James Green’s capable hands, the bloody Appalachian mine wars become an important national story of the forces of corporate greed met with the indomitable power of the human spirit. Insightful, eloquent—The Devil Is Here in These Hills will forever change the way we think of the miners’ role in early twentieth century labor history.”—Philip Dray, author of There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America
“The most comprehensive and comprehendible history of the West Virginia Coal War I’ve ever read. Jim Green has made sense of a half century of violent confrontation.”—John Sayles, writer and director of Matewan
“There are many fine photos of the struggles in West Virginia, but Green gives us a full-length feature film, telling the fifty-year-long saga of the fight against greed and exploitation. An excellent book.”—Elliott Gorn, author of Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America
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