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Appalachian UK Special Collections

UK Library Special Collections

"A Strike Against Starvation and Terror"

  • UK Libraries Special Collections launches a new website based on Appalachian archival materials, this new website created by Special Collections archivists from the Appalachian collection in the UK Libraries showcases Kentucky’s 1931-32 coal miners’ strike.  The website is called “A Strike Against Starvation and Terror.”   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  The site is designed as an archival exercise to teach students how to analyze historical documents and to be a historical source on this touchstone event in Appalachian and labor history.


  • Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection: The University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center successfully completed a NEH Humanities Collections and Reference Resources digitization grant, resulting in online access to 132 cubic feet from the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection. 

    The materials focus on 189 years of economic development in the Eastern Kentucky coalfield from 1788 to 1976. The ten individual collections document the search for, extraction of, and distribution of coal, oil, and natural gas resources in Breathitt, Boyd, Clark, Floyd, Harlan, Lawrence, Letcher, Perry, and Powell counties; the creation of railroads to bring these raw materials to industrial manufacturers and electrical power generators across the United States; and the company towns, their services, and the individual lives that grew up to sustain and make possible this economic development. 
    These collections include the Benham Coal Company records, Wheelwright collection, Sherrill Martin collection, Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company and Lexington and Eastern Railway Company records, and the Kentucky Union Land Company records. Additional details on the project and other Appalachian-related collections at UK SCRC can be found on the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection page: