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Teaching with Primary Sources

Interactive Archival Exercises

A Strike Against Starvation and Terror

A new website about Kentucky’s 1931-32 coal miners’ strike

Special Collections has created an interactive site featuring primary source materials from the Herndon Evans papers housed in the Appalachian Collection.  Evans, who was the editor of the local Pineville Sun (Bell County) and an Associate Press correspondent, closely followed the strike as it unfolded in Bell and Harlan counties.  He was particularly concerned when the Communist Party’s National Miners Union arrived to organize the miners after the United Mine Workers of America abandoned the strikers.  Covered by national newspapers, including the New York Times, and magazines such as Time and The New Republic, the strike also brought Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos, and other writers to eastern Kentucky to witness the harsh conditions under which miners and their families were living.  In 1932 New York book publisher Harcourt Brace issued the Dreiser Committee’s  Harlan Miners Speak:  Terrorism in the Kentucky Coal Fields --observations and testimony from miners, labor organizers, local law enforcement, and Herndon Evans himself.  It was also during this strike that Florence Reece wrote her now famous song, “Which Side Are You On?”  The site is designed as an archival exercise to teach students how to analyze historical documents and to be a historical source on this touchstone event in Appalachian and labor history.