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AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum Archive

Re: African American coal miners

I recently obtained an used copy of the Armstead book through an online bookstore, but I have not heard of the book about Memphis Tennessee Garrison. Thanks Selma.

I have an unbelievable amount of fragmentary material on this topic, much of which will never make it to the website; just too overwhelming for a one man operation. If my son does not bring up that D in geometry, I will soon have assistance however. HaHa Slowly but surely, I am making progress, the goal being to put together enough pieces to see what the overall picture looks like. It is quite a complex and comprehensive mosaic these miners have woven. I cannot wait to see it in its entirety! I resigned from my high school teaching position last spring to dedicate more time to this endeavor. I feel a pressing need to get the material organized and in print before I've walked my last mile.

Thanks Lee, for getting me the data on your mining ancestors so quickly. I look forward to seeing Anita's and April's in the near future.

Vickie mentioned a mining ancestor from PA in the 1920s that deserves comment. Pennsylvania, without a doubt one of the greatest coal mining states in the country, did a good job of excluding African American miners prior to around the 2nd decade of the 20th century. Those that managed to break the color line earlier are largely hidden from the state's historical record. I have found several instances of black miners in the state in the last quarter of the 1800s in newspaper accounts on strikebreaking or violent events such as murder. Most of the activity is in the southwestern corner of the state, and I hypothesize that the early miners came from a couple of the northern border counties of WV where I have found miners, or from SE Ohio which also had heavy mining activity involving African Americans from the 1870s on. Switching my attention to the missing finger of her ancestor, it is highly probable that it was a result of a mining accident. A good source of information on the accidents in any given mining state is the state mining inspector reports that began for most states in the 1870s and 80s. The early ones from KY, IL, KS, and MO have sections for injuries & fatalities that at times are rich in detail, proving good genealogical information on your ancestors. For example, in one instance in Missouri, a miner was killed and a sizable portion of the coroner's inquest was put in the mining report. Several of the miners mentioned that they were related and gave information pertaining to length of time in the mining profession and how long they had been at that particular location. In some cases this may be one of the few instances in which you may be able to document your ancestor in a given locale or working for a particular mining company. I have not been able to verify the existence of, or check the usefulness of mining reports in several mining states (CO, WY, TX, PA, VA, MI, NM, OK, AR, OH). Those in IN have been hard to come by thus far, but the ones I did find there as well as the ones in IL and WA did not specify race most of the time. I know IA and WV have extant reports, and I will be checking TN & AL on an upcoming trip at the end of the month.

One final note. Coal miners in a particular county oftentimes consisted of blacks who came in the area before the development of mining, and others who migrated to the mining activity. Case in point would be Perry county in southern Illinois. Numerous individuals can be found in farming in 1870 and are miners in 1880.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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