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The Bisbee Deportation / The Battle of Blair Mountain
Wed, October 20 @ 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM$7 – $11
Both of these new books are essential to having an understanding of the history of American class struggles.
I’ll Forget It When I Die: The Bisbee Deportation of 1917 (AK Press, 2021)
Did you ever hear the story about 1,186 men kidnapped in Arizona and dumped in a desert 200 miles away?
On July 12, 1917, in the mining town of Bisbee Arizona, twelve hundred striking miners and their supporters were rounded up by forces organized by the town sheriff and the mining companies, marched through the town, parked in the town’s baseball field, and then put in boxcars and shipped into the New Mexican desert. The deportees were largely members or supporters of the radical IWW labor union and mostly foreign-born. The roundup and deportation were both part of a xenophobic and anti-radical campaign being carried out by capital and their allies of local state and national police in complete coordination. This pattern was common throughout the country in the early days of US participation in World War I. The mine owners then took control of the town and patrols prevented any union miners from even entering it. This little-known story is a shocking and fascinating one on its own, but the sentiments exploited and exposed in Bisbee in 1917 speak to America today.
On Dark and Bloody Ground:An Oral History of the West Virginia Mine Wars (West Virginia University Press, 2021)
Anne T. Lawrence
The Battle of Blair Mountain marked the culmination of the West Virginia mine wars, a series of battles in the early 20th century pitting coal miners trying to join the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) against the mine operators who opposed them. Given the mines’ dangerous working conditions, low pay, and the abuse miners and their families were subjected to at company towns, workers decided to organize. In order to thwart what they saw as a threat to their industry, mine operators hired armed guards and often partnered with local law enforcement to keep the miners in check When the smoke cleared on the Battle of Blair Mountain, an estimated 1 million rounds were fired, dozens were killed, and 985 miners were arrested. The uprising was suppressed, but public awareness about the appalling conditions in which the miners were forced to live, work, and raise their families grew considerably.
“The local doctor, an army veteran, said he heard about as much shooting that day as he had when American forces assaulted Manila in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. And some of the miners told reporters how much the fighting on Blair Mountain resembled the furious woodland combat they waged against the Germans in the dense Argonne Forest of France.” —a Blair Mountain miner
Fifty years after Lawrence captured the testimonies of many protagonists of the largest labor uprising in United States history, and one century after nearly 10,000 armed coal miners confronted some 3,000 lawmen and strikebreakers in Blair Mountain, Lawrence’s work is finally available to a general audience in a newly-published book by WVU Press.
Mitchell Abidor is a translator who has published over a dozen books on French radical history and a writer on history, ideas, and culture who has appeared in the New York Times, Dissent, Foreign Affairs, the New York Review of Books, and Jacobin, among many others.
Anne T. Lawrence retired in 2017 after a 30-year career on the faculty of the College of Business at San José State University. She holds a doctorate in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. Anne is currently the chair of a small nonprofit that provides fellowships to early-career writers.