In the early 20th century, coal was the fuel that powered the nation. But the men who mined it in the rugged and remote hills of West Virginia endured harsh exploitation by the coal companies that controlled their lives. In the spring of 1912, miners in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley rose up against the companies and their powerful allies in law enforcement with a strike for their right to join a union.
But the mine operators responded with force. They hired private security agents to attack the miners and their families and evict them from their homes. Soon, the escalating conflict brought the era’s most notorious labor activist, Mother Jones, to the scene. A self-described “hellraiser,” Jones joined forces with miners on the ground, sparking a series of bloody armed clashes that would rage across West Virginia for the next decade.
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