New York Writers

To counteract the “official” stories coming out of Harlan and Bell counties and to witness and document the violence directed at miners, William Z. Foster, head of the American Communist Party sought the talents of writers like Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos and Sherwood Anderson. “The Dreiser Committee,” as it came to be called, traveled to Bell and Harlan counties.  There the Committee observed the strike and the conditions under which the miners and their families were living.  In 1932 the writers completed their report which was published by Harcourt, Brace & Company under the title Harlan Miners Speak: Report on Terrorism in the Kentucky Coal Fields.

The documents below illuminate the work of the writers.  Included are newspaper and magazine articles, photographs, and the cover from the first edition of Harlan Miners Speak.  Look at the documents (at the bottom of this page) 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. Try to imagine the strike without the writers’ presence and without their compiled essays and testimony which were eventually published in Harlan Miners Speak.  (Remember that excerpts from Harlan Miners Speak can be found at the sections titled  “Miners” and “Local Elite.”)  How might their absence change our understanding of this strike? Conversely, what do they help us see?  What is their role?

Dwight Billings, Professor of Sociology and Appalachian Studies and Kate Black, Curator of the Appalachian Collection discuss the role of the writers who came from New York to witness and document the strike.

 

The New York Times, November 9, 1931.  p. 19

Used with permission from The Associated Press.

 

Herndon J. Evans Collection, 1929-1982, 82M1; Box 2 Folder 10; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

Reprinted with permission from Current History, Inc.

 

Herndon J. Evans Collection, 1929-1982, 82M1; Box 2 Folder 16; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

Used with the permission of Robert Cowley, Copyright the Literary Estate of Malcom Cowley.  

Theodore Dreiser (right) and Judge D.C. Jones (left) on the steps of the Continental Hotel.  "H.J. Evans, Pineville, Ky." noted on back print.  1931 Gelatin silver print

Herndon J. Evans Photograph Collection, 1929-1982, PA82av1; Box 1, Item 6; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

 

John Dos Passos (left), Adelaide Walker (center) and Charles Rumford Walker (right).  "...writers investigating conditions in Harlan mine field.  H.J. Evans/Pineville, Ky." noted on the back print.  1931  Gelatin silver print

Herndon J. Evans Photograph Collection, 1929-1982, PA82av1; Box 1, Item 7; Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington

First Edition cover of Harlan Miners Speak: Report on Terrorism in the Kentucky Coal Fields, housed in the Herndon Evans collection.  

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

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