National Miner's Union and Other Radical Groups

The economic distress—both local and national—combined with the United Mine Workers of America’s unwillingness to support the miners provided the opening for what John Hennen calls a “radical alternative.” The National Miners Union (NMU) was the result of the American Communist Party’s decision to no longer “bore from within” established trade unions but instead to create its own unions. Pledging to back the striking miners when traditional outlets like the Red Cross were withholding aid, the NMU earned the allegiance of a small but dedicated number of miners.   Other leftist labor unions including the International Workers of the World (IWW) assisted the strikers and the NMU, and groups such as the socialist League for Industrial Democracy (LID) collected clothing and money on college campuses to distribute to the striking miners and their families.

Included in this section (see documents at the bottom of this page) is an article published in the New York Times reporting on student groups who arrived in Kentucky to support the miners and a photograph of students being turned away from what was likely the Kentucky-Tennessee state line.  Pay particular attention to the unique broadsides (posters or fliers).  They would have been distributed among the miners or posted on buildings to announce a meeting or march, and some were circulated in cities where the NMU and other radical groups were trying to raise money and gather supplies to aid the striking miners.  Look at the documents and begin to analyze them by answering these questions:

  1. Who are the narrators (authors) of your documents and in what context are they speaking or writing?
  2. What points of view are being expressed in the materials under review?
  3. How do these sources add to your understanding of the strike?
  4. Attitudes about race and gender were used to both support and denigrate the NMU.  Select a document that shows how rhetoric about gender or race was employed to influence the strike.  Provide a few sample passages and discuss their rhetorical power.  

Dwight Billings, Professor of Sociology and Appalachian Studies and Kate Black, Curator of the Appalachian Collection discuss the influence the National Miners Union and other radicals, particularly groups of college students who arrived in Bell and Harlan counties, had on the strike.

 

nytstudents

 

The New York Times, March 26, 1932.  p. 15

donaldson

Herndon J. Evans Collection, 1929-1982, 82M1; Box 2, Folder 6; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

buskids

 

Herndon J. Evans Photograph Collection, 1929-1982, PA82av1; Box 1, Item 27; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

questions

Herndon J. Evans Collection, 1929-1982, 82M1; Box 2 Folder 2; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

pineville

 

Herndon J. Evans Collection, 1929-1982, 82M1; Box 2 Folder 2; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

honest

 

Herndon J. Evans Collection, 1929-1982, 82M1; Box 2 Folder 2; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

expose

 

Herndon J. Evans Collection, 1929-1982, 82M1; Box 2 Folder 2; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

drive

 

Herndon J. Evans Collection, 1929-1982, 82M1; Box 2 Folder 2; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

answer

 

Herndon J. Evans Collection, 1929-1982, 82M1; Box 2 Folder 2; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

call

 

Herndon J. Evans Collection, 1929-1982, 82M1; Box 2 Folder 2; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

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