Bill Blizzard & Wess Harris

Picture: Labor Day Celebration in Charleston 2004. Wess Harris, Bill (William C.) Blizzard, and Cecil Roberts.

William C. Blizzard was born in 1916, son of Bill and Rae Blizzard. He died in 2009 at the age of 92. William’s father was the Union’s legendary hero of the Battle of Blair Mountain and this quirk of fate would both bless and curse his entire existence. He attended West Virginia University but always regarded his time there as time spent at a school meant for the offspring of operators rather than miners. Moving to New York, he attended Columbia and studied journalism and photography. These were to be his trades throughout his  life. He held numerous jobs but lost more than a few due to what he identified as FBI interference–and  likely a few more due to his own progressive beliefs. In the early 1950s, he worked for Labor’s Daily, a labor paper published in Charleston, West  Virginia. It was while at this job that he completed years of work on his magnum opus: Struggle and Lose, Struggle and Win! The work, a history of the early struggles by miners for decent working conditions, was published in Labor’s Daily in serial form. Unfortunately, the paper had a policy that staff writers did not get bylines. Three days after publication, this unsigned work was wrapping dead fish and unavailable to later researchers.    
 
Until the publication of When Miners March in 2005, William C. Blizzard was best known as a writer/photographer for the Charleston Gazette. His Sunday features are remembered to this day  as highlighting the best of West Virginia. As fate–or genetics–would have it, he was fired in the early 70s for refusing to cross a picket line. The next three decades would see tight finances and declining health until  in 2004 he was found by Wess Harris and a partnership was born. The first edition of When Miners March  became real in 2005 and William C. Blizzard enjoyed recognition more than a half century after it was  deserved. He was featured on the History Channel and delighted in autographing his books–the last few months from his bed in a nursing home.   


Wess Harris is a farmer, educator, and progressive activist living in central West Virginia. Paper trained as a sociologist, his most important credentials may be his black hat (a certified underground miner) and  background as a Union organizer. These, combined with a stubborn streak, ultimately persuaded then 87 year old William C. Blizzard to publish his Struggle and Lose, Struggle and Win! 

Blizzard’s book has consumed most of his non-farming time in recent years but Wess has also been active in the movement to preserve Blair Mountain from the ravages of mountain removal coal mining. Wess  currently uses the When Miners March Traveling Museum as a means of selling Blizzard’s book as well as teaching about mine and Union history. As a younger chap, Wess came under the influence of Don West, Myles Horton, Arthur E. Morgan, and a host of other almost forgotten heroes. He has recently located and digitally preserved more than half of the estimated 100 Appalachian Portraits painted by Don’s wife and Highlander co-founder, Connie. As a sociologist/historian, Wess is keenly aware that all traditions are always only one generation from extinction. The traditions of progressive activists from the abolitionists, labor organizers, environmentalists, anti-war protestors, and a host of others are being  systematically attacked by the interests of those in power. Wess is devoting the remainder of his productive years to telling the stories to one more generation.

Praise

Written in Blood: Courage and Corruption in the Appalachian War of Extraction

Written in Blood: Courage and Corruption in the Appalachian War of Extraction

SKU: 9781629634456
Editor: Wess Harris
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 9781629634456
Published: 9/2017
Format: Paperback, ePub, mobi, PDF
Size: 6 x 9
Page count: 264
Subjects: Politics / History-US / Labor

Praise

Written in Blood shines a critical light on the untold true history of the WV Mine Wars.”
—Mari-Lynn Evans, director and producer of Blood on the Mountain

“With Written in Blood, Wess Harris has once again called attention to how the West Virginia state government and the coal industry have struggled to keep our state’s real history buried beneath a slag heap of fairy tales and misinformation. His critics will find this book, like his other works, abrasive and filled with alleged distortions about the coal companies’ abuse and exploitation of the state’s coal miners and their families. His supporters will welcome Written in Blood as Harris once again pushes the boundaries in an effort to reveal that abuse and exploitation.”
—David Corbin, author of Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners, 1880–1922

“For two hundred years, the coal industry has promised us prosperity. Written in Blood leaves little doubt that the prosperity never arrives. The promise itself is contingent on us agreeing to our own destruction. We must agree to stand idly by as they destroy our communities, water, air, health, and lives. We owe them nothing. They owe us everything.”
—Maria Gunnoe, Goldman Environmental Prize winner and recipient of the University of Michigan Raoul Wallenberg Medal

“For more than a century, the real history of the working people of our state has been deliberately scrubbed from our children’s schoolbooks and our collective knowledge. Written in Blood helps bring the true history of West Virginia working families back into the light of day. Read it. Learn it. Pass it on!”
—Mike Caputo, International District 31 vice president, United Mine Workers of America

“Labor historian Wess Harris targets lost history in a brand new book that provides jaw-dropping accounts of how women were treated by an industry already widely known for its ruthlessness and callousness.”
Counterpunch



When Miners March

When Miners March

SKU: 9781604863000
Author: William C. Blizzard • Edited by Wess Harris
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 9781604863000
Published: 9/2010
Format: Paperback, ePub, mobi, PDF
Size: 6 x 9
Page count: 408
Subjects: Labor, History-U.S.

Praise

“When Miners March is an extraordinary account of a largely ignored but important event in the history of our nation.”
–Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States

“When Miners March is a national treasure, a recovered gem of American History that should be required reading today. Never has a book been timelier; never has Wm. C. Blizzard’s inside account of his legendary father’s march to liberate the Appalachian coalfields from the abuses of King Coal been more relevant.”
 –Jeff Biggers, author of The United States of Appalachia

“This engaging book…is a valuable contribution to the preservation of a history that should be honored and never lost. Read it and weep, and cheer.”
–Harry Cleaver, author of Reading Capital Politically

“Essentially an oral history on paper, When Miners March is the story of the birth of the UMWA in West Virginia. It is also a study of the reality of capitalism and its toll on those who work in its sphere. It’s about men who believe in the the possibilities of human solidarity and other men who succumb to greed and power. It is a testimony to the power of the idea that everyone deserves a safe workplace, a decent wage, and the life such a wage buys. Most importantly, this book is an inspiration to those who still believe that those things are worth fighting for.”
–Ron Jacobs, Counterpunch

“Current events—notably the struggle for unions to remain relevant and empowered, and coal’s role in the climate change crisis—make these writings both relevant and remarkable. The book underscores, among other things, both how far we have come in terms of labor protections and rights, and how far we have fallen in terms of workers’ ability and willingness to take great risks and militant action.”
–Kari Lydersen, In These Times



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