The West Virginia Mine Wars were a complicated, inspiring, and tragic series of events that occurred in Southern West Virginia in the first decades of the 20th century when coal miners and their supporters fought against unfair and often illegal working and living conditions enforced by their bosses with the tacit support of many government officials. Teaching this complicated and multifaceted history is a difficult task, but one that is important in helping students understand United States and West Virginia history. What is more, teaching this history is about more than just the story of what happened, it is also an opportunity to explore the role of groups and individuals who are often left out of our historical narratives such as women, immigrants, poor people, and people of color, all of which played a central role in the story of the Mine Wars. As part of our mission of telling the story of the Mine Wars beyond the four walls of the museum, we have created and field tested lessons for 4th/5th, 8th, and 11th grades to help teachers teach this important history. All the lessons are also aligned with West Virginia state curriculum standards.
Thanks to The West Virginia Humanities Council for making this project possible.
2-Week Unit Plan for 8th Grade
We are thrilled to finally launch our 2-week unit plan on West Virginia Mine Wars History, available now in PDF format.
These lessons were carefully crafted with teacher input, and revised over the course of several months. Although these lessons are a final product, we are eager to hear about ways that you have used these lessons in your classrooms, and we would love to hear from you about your success and challenges, or about how you adapted or added to these lessons.
4th and 5th Grade Lesson
Coal Camp Life Picture 1 (Itman Coal Camp and Company Store)
Coal Camp Life Picture 2 (Child Labor at a WV Coal Mine)
Coal Camp Life Picture 3 (Coal Miners Families on Strike)
Coal Camp Life Picture 4 (Striking Miners' Tent Camp)
Coal Camp Life Picture 5 (Striking Miners' Tent Camp)
West Virginia Mine Wars Coloring Book
This historical coloring book is designed to be an interactive way for kids to learn about the history of the WV Mine Wars. It has already been distributed to over 1000 fourth graders in West Virginia! If you would like to use a copy of this book for educational purposes only, click here to open the file folders.
Background Resources for Teachers
West Virginia Public Broadcasting also has an excellent collection of education resources for background on the Mine Wars and coal camp life.
Rebecca J. Bailey, Matewan Before the Massacre: Politics, Coal, and the Roots of Conflict in a West Virginia Community
David A. Corbin, Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners 1880-1922.
James Green, The Devil is Here in These Hills: West Virginia's Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom
Ronald L. Lewis, Black Coal Miners in America: Race, Class, and Community Conflict, 1780-1980
Lon Savage, Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-1921
Joe William Trotter, Coal, Class and Color: Blacks in Southern West Virginia
"The Mine Wars" E-WV Encyclopedia https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/1799
"The Mine Wars" PBS American Experience https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/theminewars/
Wes Harris, When Miners March and Written in Blood