Meet Our New Museum Director
Welcome to the team, Mackenzie.
The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum team is thrilled to welcome aboard our new Museum Director, Mackenzie New. We're sure we've found the perfect person for this job. Below is a letter from Mackenzie to our museum members and friends.
Dear Museum Members and Friends,
My name is Mackenzie New, and I am absolutely delighted to finally announce my position as the new director at the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum!
West Virginia is my home; I was born and raised right here in the southern coalfields. West Virginia and its people have given so much to me already – the value of hard work, regional pride, pure grit, and much more! Working with the WV Mine Wars Museum, the Board, and Museum Members will grant me an opportunity to give back to the region.
There are a few things you might want to know about me. First, I am a recent graduate of Marshall University, where I graduated summa cum laude with a degree in history and political science. I am also an avid lover of cats. For reference, see below a picture of me and my cat, Ralphy Dale.
In addition, I am the great-great-great-great granddaughter of the legendary Devil Anse Hatfield, a title that descends through Johnse Hatfield. My great grandpa, Forrest New, was a Union miner during the Mine Wars. My dad often tells stories about him. Due to the secrecy of the Union activities, there is little known about his involvement. He would always say “we’d crawl on our bellies to get ‘em back,” when speaking about the iron hand of the coal companies.
I grew up listening to tales of how my grandparents and great-grandparents struggled to merely get by in these coalfields. In many ways, the struggle still remains today. Keeping history alive in our region is more important than ever. For many reasons, our ancestors couldn’t tell their own story, so it’s up to us. I hope that you’ll join me in recovering, retelling, and reclaiming a history that’s been buried for far too long.
Blair Mountain Strike Supper
Why We Break (Corn)bread: What the Strike Supper was All About
Justus Collins, an operator in the New River coalfield, advised mine owners to hire a “judicious mixture” of workers—white and black, native and immigrant—because their differences would prevent them from organizing and uniting. During the West Virginia Mine Wars, miners and their families proved him wrong.
Most coal camps had that “judicious mixture” of African Americans from the South and recent immigrants from eastern Europe and the Mediterranean as well as native-born Appalachians. Outside observers usually did not see a celebration of rich traditions and foodways, instead seeing a confusing mixture of cultures. One reporter from the New York Post visiting striking miners on Paint Creek and Cabin Creek in 1913 wrote, “It is estimated roughly that 50 per cent of the inhabitants are descendants of the mountaineers who once inhabited the country...The remainder of the miners are a strange conglomeration of Europeans and Negroes.”
Yet, when poet Ralph Chaplin visited the same muddy fields filled with canvass tent colonies, he saw something wonderful. He wrote, “They are doing pretty well in their tents. There is no atmosphere of martyrdom about these fighting West Virginians—nothing but a grim good humor and an iron determination.”
He believed that these families from very different backgrounds and traditions, working together to win their rights, had the potential to change the world. Inspired, he later penned labor’s most famous anthem, “Solidarity Forever.” Its last verse captures that sentiment:
In our hands is placed a power
greater than their hoarded gold;
Greater than the might of armies,
magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world
from the ashes of the old.
For the Union makes us strong.
From Lou Martin
Thank you to the dozens of volunteers and partners who made the Strike Supper possible: the pig-roasters, the ticket-sellers, the raffle-booth-workers, the cooks, the photographers and so may more! Thanks to The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition for the invitation to include The Blair Mountain Strike Supper in the Hatfield-McCoy Heritage Foods Dinner Series this fall! Thanks too to our project sponsors, the Coal Heritage Area Authority and the Appalachian Community Fund!
Redneck Pride and Power is Revived in West Virginia
This winter thousands of teachers across the state took up the tradition of our Mine Wars predecessors, by standing up for their rights to fair pay and a decent living.
Some striking teachers even donned red bandanas, recalling the uniform of miners from the Mine Wars era.
We were proud to see this sign of our hertiage on display and even prouder to see our fellow working women and men showing us what powerful unions look like today in West Virginia.
NEH to Fund Blair Centennial Project!
On August 2, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced that the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum is the recipient of a $30,000 challenge grant for The Blair Centennial Project, our long-term plan to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Blair Mountain in 2021!
The five-day Battle of Blair Mountain unfolded on the border of Boone and Logan counties and pitted unionist coal miners against local law enforcement and citizen militias. The Blair Centennial Celebration will consist of five days of fun, interpretive activities spread out across the coalfield counties where the conflict took place.
The NEH grant committee called the Blair Centennial Project “A bold and collaborative effort to use the humanities to foster cultural tourism and give a challenged community hope for the future through respect for the past.”
Thank you to our partners the West Virginia Humanities Council, the West Virginia Labor History Association, the UMWA Local 1440, the National Coal Heritage Area, the West Virginia Preservation Alliance, the West Virginia Community Development Hub, and Eliza Newland at the Watts Museum for your support!