This Labor Day Weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain, and organizations across West Virginia are making sure it doesn’t slip by unnoticed. Dozens of events are taking place from Matewan to Madison, Williamson to Welch, and even as far north as Morgantown.
Lighting the fuse on the grand affair is the official Kick-Off at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center on Friday, September 3rd. Doors will open for pre-show activities at 4pm, which are free to the public and will feature string bands, Mine Wars reenactors, dance workshops, exhibitors, and vendors.
At 7pm, the official program will start in the Civic Center theater. Two of the creative forces behind the soundtrack of the 1987 MATEWAN film will join together in a rare showcase performance: Phil Wiggins, a 2017 National Heritage Fellow and his band are joined by Gerry Milnes—a prominent West Virginia folklorist and another MATEWAN soundtrack featured artist—and accompanists. This is the first time these two musical talents will appear together since recording on the film’s soundtrack over thirty years ago. Special opening performance will also be given by renowned Appalachian folk artists Saro Lynch-Thomason and Heather Hannah & Company. The event is offered in partnership with the Augusta Heritage Center of Elkins, and is funded in part by a grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council, generously sponsored by National Coal Heritage Area Authority.
Between musical acts, the audience will be treated to some history of the music surrounding Blair Mountain, including short talks by West Virginia State Folklorist Emily Hilliard and beloved vocalist Doris Fields, better known as “Lady D,” West Virginia’s “First Lady of Soul.” Poet and activist Crystal Good will remotely perform her poem, “Civil Up & Rising.”
Tickets to the concert are $15 per person, and can be pre-purchased at the official website of the Blair Centennial, www.blair100.com/events/kickoff. Tickets will also be available at the door, but availability is limited and attendees are encouraged to purchase in advance.
The Battle of Blair Mountain was fought near the Boone-Logan County line from August 31 to September 3, 1921, when as many as 10,000 union miners attacked 3,000 men commanded by Sheriff Don Chafin, the “King of Logan.” The miners were attempting to cross through his staunchly anti-union territory to free fellow miners who had been imprisoned in Williamson without trial. The conflict ended when martial law was declared, and U.S. Army troops disarmed the miners. Despite the battle’s importance to the history of West Virginia and the nation, the land where it took place is still privately owned, though generations of historians have urged the creation of a state or national park.
The Battle of Blair Mountain Centennial is generously sponsored by National Coal Heritage Area Authority, Wolfe, Williams, and Reynolds Law Firm, the International United Mine Workers of America, and more. Find a full list of sponsors at www.blair100.com
For more information about the Blair Centennial contact: Mackenzie New, Director, WV Mine Wars Museum and Coordinator of the Battle of Blair Mountain Centennial: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-304-691-0014. Learn more about the Centennial and the West Virginia Mine Wars at: www.blair100.com and www.wvminewars.org.