The Forgotten History of America’s African-American Coal Towns | Tech US News


However, racism and tragedy were also highlighted, and the auto-route takes travelers through those events as well. For example, there is talk of McKendree Miner’s Hospital, where African-Americans injured in mining accidents were treated in segregated hospital wards.

And there’s a stop to the Hawk’s Nest Tunnel disaster: Starting in 1930, crews of predominantly African-American men dug a three-mile tunnel that resulted in at least 724 of them dying of silicosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling deadly silica dust . Today the tragedy is marked with a monument and a cemetery.

“Like all miners, they faced extremely dangerous working conditions, but it was made worse by the fact that managers tended to put black miners in the worst parts of the mines,” said Lou Martin, an assistant professor of history at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. . , Pennsylvania, who specializes in Appalachian history.

In addition, the Ku Klux Klan was active in the local coal fields. Some towns in the area were off-limits to African Americans or had sunset laws, which meant they could not visit those towns after dark. In December 1919, two black coal miners were lynched.

A century later, the coalfields have largely fallen silent. But for Fields, West and others, the contribution of West Virginia’s African-American miners to Appalachian history is undeniable, and the opening of the new national park offers an opportunity to share it. “This is an important story to tell,” West said. “It’s opening the doors, and our eyes, to a deeper understanding of those around us.”

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