Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Elizabeth Zanoni

Committee Member

John Weber

Committee Member

Maura Hametz


The West Virginia Mine Wars are etched in the popular memory of West Virginians, who view these events as an important part of their identity as Mountaineers; yet, there is still much historians do not know about the Mine Wars, especially when concentrating on the perspectives and experiences of the working-class miners. These everyday miners and their families are the topic of this thesis. Using oral histories from the Matewan Development Center Records housed in the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, this thesis argues that community-building across ethnic and racial lines within Matewan’s coal camps was not only possible, but occurred at a degree unmatched by other West Virginia industrial communities. In these camps, miners lived less segregated lives than their counterparts, presenting a fairly mixed community in which inter-ethnic exchanges laid an early foundation for cross-ethnic organization and resistance against the coal operators. As miners in southern West Virginia struggled to unionize against pro-coal forces and their attempts to divide miners and the larger community along racial and ethnic lines, miners turned to their foundation of community in the coal camp to withstand strike tactics, including their almost two year banishment to tent colonies. Tent colonies presented opportunities for informal exchanges between miners – exchanges that were just as valuable as formal exchanges in their day to day lives. By examining both formal and informal exchanges between Matewan’s mining population, this thesis argues that the “mixed up” quality of Stone Mountain Coal Corporation’s coal camps stimulated a shared working-class identity that was then mobilized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) on a scale previously not achieved in West Virginia’s southern coalfields.


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