Professor James Green was a guest at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork two years ago and impressed everyone with his knowledge of the history of the North American labour movement, of Mother Jones and of the mining wars that took place in Virginia a century ago. Sadly Jim passed away in June but he will not be forgotten. Our thanks to Jim Monaghan for forwarding on the following excellent obituary of Jim Green from Jim O’Brien of the US based but international Labor and Working Class History Association.
The Cork Mother Jones Festival Committee is saddened to hear of the death of James Green who was a guest speaker at the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and proved to be a most interesting and genial guest. James was here to speak about his book “The Devil is here in these hills” which told the story of the West Virginia Mine Wars and the struggle of the miners of that district and their families for proper pay and decent conditions fighting employers who were prepared to stop at nothing to prevent the mine workers from winning the most basic concessions. Jim was a powerful yet soft-spoken speaker who became a firm friend of the members of the committee and showed a genuine interest in Cork and its history. On behalf of the Mother Jones Committee we tender our sincere condolences to James family and friends.
From before the dawn of the twentieth century until the arrival of the New Deal, one of the most protracted and deadly labor struggles in American history was waged in West Virginia. On one side were powerful corporations whose millions bought mercenary armed guards and political influence. On the other side were fifty thousand mine workers, the nation’s largest labor union, and the legendary “miners’ angel,” Mother Jones. The fight for unionization and civil rights sparked a political crisis that verged on civil war, stretching from the creeks and hollows to the courts and the U.S. Senate. In The Devil Is Here in These Hills, historian James Green tells the story of West Virginia and coal like never before.
When rail arrived in Appalachia in the 1870s, the country’s wealthiest industrialists pushed fast into the wilderness, digging mines and building company towns where they wielded vast control over everyday life—from hiring minsters to issuing their own money. The state’s high-quality coal drove America’s expansion and industrialization, but for the tens of thousands of miners, incl8uding boys as young as ten, the mining life showed the bitter irony of West Virginia’s motto, “Mountaineers Are Always Free.” Attempts to unionize were met with stiff resistance. Fundamental rights were bent, then broken, and the violence evolved from guerrilla warfare to open armed conflicts. Eventually thousands of miners marched to an explosive showdown on the slopes of Blair Mountain.
Green’s fascinating book traces this decades-long story that has been all but lost to American memory. Based on extensive research and told in vibrant detail, The Devil Is Here in These Hills is the definitive book on an essential chapter in the history of American freedom.
James Green was one of the main speakers at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2014.
Prof. James Green of the University of Massachusetts, Boston and author of Death in the Haymarket and the West Virginia Mine Wars delivered the Cork Mother Jones Lecture 2014 at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork on the opening day of the festival, Tuesday 29th July.
You can view or download the full text of Prof. Green’s excellent lecture by clicking on the link below.