Sat Sep 3, 9:30 AM - Sat Sep 3, 4:00 PM
in 18 days

First State Capitol

1413 Eoff Street, Wheeling, WV 26003

Community: Wheeling


The 2022 Reuther-Pollack Labor History Symposium VI: featuring Joe Trotter; Anne Lawrence; John Hennen; and Kim Kelly.

Event Details

"This symposium is maybe the best yet... I think there will be a great range of talks but also a lot of great overlap. Just really top notch."

~Dr. Lou Martin, Labor Historian


An annual symposium focused on regional labor history.

Doors Open: 9:30 am for Registration and *Continental Breakfast*

10:00 am - Dr. Joe William Trotter

Book: African American Workers and the Appalachian Coal Industry

11:00 am - Dr. Anne T. Lawrence

Book: On Dark and Bloody Ground An Oral History of the West Virginia Mine Wars

12 pm - Lunch Break: Lunch provided

Reuther Birthday Celebration plus Walking Tour to the Reuther & Pollack monuments led by Dr. Hal Gorby

2:00 pm - Dr. John Hennen

Book: A Union for Appalachian Healthcare Workers: The Radical Roots and Hard Fights of Local 1199

3:00 pm - Kim Kelly

Book: Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor

SPEAKER BIOs & Abstracts

Dr. Joe William Trotter, Jr. is the Giant Eagle University Professor of History and Social Justice at Carnegie Mellon University, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and author of Workers on Arrival: Black Labor in the Making of America .

Abstract: This collection brings together nearly three decades of research on the African American experience, class, and race relations in the Appalachian coal industry. It shows how, with deep roots in the antebellum era of chattel slavery, WV’s Black working class gradually picked up steam during the emancipation years following the Civil War and dramatically expanded during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From there, African American Workers and the Appalachian Coal Industry highlights the decline of the region’s Black industrial proletariat under the impact of rapid technological, social, and political changes following World War II. It underscores how all miners suffered unemployment and outmigration from the region as global transformations took their toll on the coal industry, but emphasizes the disproportionately painful impact of declining bituminous coal production on African American workers, their families, and their communities.

Dr. Anne T. Lawrence is professor of management emerita at San José State Univ. She currently serves as chair of the Case Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides fellowships to early-career scholars for training in case research and teaching.

Abstract: In 1972 Anne Lawrence came to West Virginia at the invitation of the Miners for Democracy movement to conduct interviews with participants in, and observers of, the Battle of Blair Mountain and other Appalachian mine wars of the 1920s and ’30s. The set of oral histories she collected—the only document of its kind—circulated for many years as an informal typescript volume, acquiring an almost legendary status among those intrigued by the subject. Key selections from it appear here for the first time as a published book, supplemented with introductory material, maps, and photographs. The volume’s vivid, conversational mode invites readers into miners’ lived experiences and helps us understand why they took up arms to fight anti-union forces in some of the nation’s largest labor uprisings.

Dr. John Hennen taught history for over thirty years, including two decades at Morehead State University, where he is emeritus professor of history. He is the author of The Americanization of West Virginia: Creating a Modern Industrial State, 1916–1925.

Abstract: The union of hospital workers usually referred to as the 1199 sits at the intersection of three of the most important topics in US history: organized labor, health care, and civil rights. Hennen’s book explores the union’s history in Appalachia, a region that is generally associated with extractive industries but has seen health care grow as a share of the overall economy. With a multiracial, largely female, and notably militant membership, 1199 was at labor’s vanguard in the 1970s, and Hennen traces its efforts in hospitals, nursing homes, and healthcare centers in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and Appalachian Ohio. He places these stories of mainly low-wage women workers within the framework of shake-ups in the late industrial and early postindustrial United States, relying in part on the words of Local 1199 workers and organizers themselves.

Kim Kelly is an independent journalist, author, and organizer. She has been a regular labor columnist for Teen Vogue since 2018, and her writing on labor, class, politics, and culture has appeared in The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Esquire, among many others. A third-generation union member, she is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World’s Freelance Journalists Union.

Abstract: Freed Black women organizing for protection in the Reconstruction-era South. Jewish immigrant garment workers braving deadly conditions for a sliver of independence. Asian American fieldworkers rejecting government-sanctioned indentured servitude across the Pacific. The queer Black labor leader who helped orchestrate America’s civil rights movement. These are only some of the working-class heroes who propelled American labor’s relentless push for fairness and equal protection under the law. In this assiduously researched work of journalism, Teen Vogue columnist and independent labor reporter Kim Kelly excavates that history and shows how the rights the American worker has today—the forty-hour workweek, workplace-safety standards, restrictions on child labor, protection from harassment and discrimination on the job—were earned with literal blood, sweat, and tears.

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