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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


By 1950, Lewis had secured miners a contract better than any they had ever seen including health benefits, a guaranteed pension, and higher wages. But the gains came at a price.

The contract allowed operators to further mechanize their mines.

Continuous mining machines replaced whole crews of men and spewed clouds of coal dust into the air.

Thousands more miners came down with black lung, a disease resembling silicosis, with equally fatal results.

Black miners were the first to lose their jobs. Mine foremen refused to train blacks to operate machinery. They would envy the machine, claimed one foreman, and not work well.

During the 1950’s, a decade of national prosperity, more than half of the coal miners in West Virginia lost their jobs. Coal operators sold off company stores and houses, closed down company towns.

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