As schools, communities and politicians across the country celebrate Black History Month in February, they will be remiss if their lessons don't include the coal fields of Fayette County, West Virginia. There, in the 1890s, a teenage African American followed his brothers into the coal mines, serving what Carter Woodson called his "six-year apprenticeship." In the evenings, the young Woodson would gather with other black coal miners, read the newspaper, and listen to their extraordinary stories of life underground, and their struggles during the Civil War and Reconstruction Era.
The daily history lessons among African Americans in Appalachia were not lost on Woodson. He later wrote that his "interest in penetrating the past of my people was deepened and intensified" during these sessions among coal miners in Fayette County.
Cathie's notes: Not sure how I missed this article written by Jeff Biggers a couple of days before Black History Month began, but better late than never, I guess. You can read the rest of the article here.
Jeff will be speaking at the Harlem Arts Salon this evening at 8 pm: Black Diamonds, Black Lives, and the Coal Roots of Black History Month. He'll be doing a book signing for his latest work, Reckoning at Eagle Creek. You can read an interview of Jeff about this talk and his book here.