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Everyone Was Black in the Mines: Exploring the Reasons for Relaxed Racial Tensions in Early West Virginia Coal Company Towns.

Author(s): Robert DeMuth

Year: 2015

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Summary

While racial inequality was frequently the norm in many early 20th century communities, several historians have noted that many central Appalachian coal mining ‘company towns’ tended toward more equitable white/black race relations.  The progressive nature of these histories is opposed to our modern stereotypes of the region, and may provide and important outlet for positive narratives of Appalachia.  This paper draws largely on oral histories and documentary evidence to understand the processes that led to this anomalous situation, examining the ways in which aspects of miner agency and company policy both defied and complied to racial norms of the early 20th century.  Ultimately, I argue that these relaxed racial tensions can be partially credited to the liminal experiences of living in a geographically isolated, impoverished community and underground mining.  Such perspectives provide a less negative view of coal companies, complicating our current understanding of the relationship between labor and inequality.


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Everyone Was Black in the Mines: Exploring the Reasons for Relaxed Racial Tensions in Early West Virginia Coal Company Towns.. Robert DeMuth. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Seattle, Washington. 2015 ( tDAR id: 433755)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 379

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America