Stripmining Black History Month

For Black History Month, we revisit this article by Jeff Biggers who asks us to remember the role of African Americans in shaping—and being shaped by—Appalachia, a region of the country that is too often forgotten.

As schools, communities and politicians across the country celebrate Black History Month in February, they will be remiss if their lessons don’t include the coal fields of Fayette County, West Virginia. There, in the 1890s, a teenage African American followed his brothers into the coal mines, serving what Carter Woodson called his “six-year apprenticeship.” In the evenings, the young Woodson would gather with other black coal miners, read the newspaper, and listen to their extraordinary stories of life underground, and their struggles during the Civil War and Reconstruction era.