Alumni Events

November 1, 2018 at 4:45 pm

Alumni News | Wess Harris on Appalachia Mine War and Esau Scrip System, Nov. 30

A smiling Wess Harris

Wess Harris

The Sociology and Anthropology Department hosts Wess Harris ’74M on Friday, Nov. 30, from 11:30 a.m. to 1  p.m. in Bentley Annex 102. He will talk about research methods and his multi-decade research of the Appalachia Mine War and the Esau Scrip System (institutionalized forced sexual servitude of women in coal mine communities).

Harris is in town to present “The Great Appalachian Miners’ Struggle: 1890 to the Present” at the Athens Public Library at 2 p.m. on Dec. 1.

Harris is a sociologist, farmer, and educator who is widely recognized as a leading authority on West Virginia’s Great Mine War. He completed his graduate studies in sociology at Ohio University, earned his certification as a underground miner a few years later and briefly served as president of L.U. 1555.

He teaches both labor history and environmental issues to students from around the country, while spending most of his time in the Appalachia region. Harris’s primary involvement is as curator of the When Miners March Traveling Museum, which is devoted to documenting and teaching the history of West Virginia’s miners that has been lost, ignored, or suppressed over the past century. In recent years, the Traveling Museum has appeared at numerous state and regional arts and crafts fairs and Appalachian festivals.

His major research contributions of late have focused on the publication of When Miners March by William C. Blizzard, who was a lifelong journalist and photographer who was overlooked by the “scholars” of the mine war era, and Written in Blood: Courage and Corruption in the Appalachian War of Extraction, a 2017 anthology including the work of both mainstream scholars, widely known independent researchers, and countless contributors who have encountered the Traveling Museum in recent years. It was edited by Harris and published by PM Press and breaks new ground in revealing the role of women in the coal camps and the oppression they lived under. Written in Blood received a starred and featured review in the October 30, 2017 Publisher’s Weekly and was reviewed and recommended by the March 2018 CHOICE—a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries.

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